Posts Tagged ‘Interior Minister Eli Yishai’

U.S. gave Israel green light for East Jerusalem construction

March 12, 2010

U.S. Vice President Joe Biden.
(AP)

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By Akiva Eldar, Haaretz Correspondent, Haretz/Israel,  March 12, 2010

The apology offered by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Interior Minister Eli Yishai recalls the joke about the servant who pinched the king’s bottom. En route to the gallows, the servant apologized: He thought it was the queen’s bottom.

The statement issued by Netanyahu’s bureau said that in light of the ongoing dispute between Israel and the United States over construction in East Jerusalem, the plans for new housing in the Ramat Shlomo neighborhood should not have been approved this particular week. It also said the premier had ordered Yishai to draft procedures that would prevent a recurrence. In other words, Yishai is welcome to submit more plans for Jewish construction in East Jerusalem next week, when U.S. Vice President Joe Biden will no longer be here.

Based on Biden’s reaction, it seems that he (and, presumably, his boss) has decided that it is better to leave with a few sour grapes than to quarrel with the vineyard guard. In his speech at Tel Aviv University, he said he appreciated Netanyahu’s pledge that there would be no recurrence. But what exactly does that mean? That next time he comes, the Planning and Building Committee will be asked to defer discussion of similar plans until the honored guest has left?

With the media storm dying down, Netanyahu can breathe a sigh of relief.

In a sense, the uproar actually helped him: To wipe the spit off his face, Biden had to say it was only rain. Therefore, he lauded Netanyahu’s assertion that actual construction in Ramat Shlomo would begin only in another several years.

Thus Israel essentially received an American green light for approving even more building plans in East Jerusalem.

Biden might not know it, but the Palestinians certainly remember that this is exactly how East Jerusalem’s Har Homa neighborhood began: Then, too, Netanyahu persuaded the White House that construction would begin only in another several years.

When Biden arrived, the Arab League had just recommended that Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas accede to Washington’s proposal for indirect talks with Israel.

But instead of being able to leave with an announcement that the talks have officially begun, Biden is leaving with the news that the Arab League has suspended its recommendation.

Netanyahu can thus hope that the Ramat Shlomo imbroglio has deferred the moment of truth when he must reveal his interpretation of “two states for two peoples.” And just in case anyone failed to realize how impartial a mediator the U.S. is, Biden said in his Tel Aviv speech that the U.S. has “no better friend” than Israel.

For Netanyahu, the cherry on top was that the onus for advancing the negotiations has now been put on the Arab states – just two weeks before the Arab League summit in Tripoli, where the league’s 2002 peace initiative will again be up for discussion. For months, U.S. President Barack Obama has been trying to persuade Arab leaders not to disconnect this important initiative from life support. His argument is that nothing would make Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad happier than a final blow-up of the peace process and the outbreak of a third intifada. And his joy would be redoubled if the fire started in Jerusalem.

But while the U.S. may be papering over the rift for now, Western diplomats said the bill will come due once the talks with the PA begin (assuming they do). The U.S. has already said it will submit bridging proposals of its own during these talks, and its anger and frustration over the Ramat Shlomo incident are likely to make it far more sympathetic to the Palestinians’ positions, the diplomats said.

For instance, Netanyahu wants security issues to top the talks’ agenda, an Israeli source said. But the Palestinians want the first issue to be borders, including in Jerusalem.

And the European Union, which had planned to upgrade various agreements with Israel this week in honor of the resumed talks, has now postponed the upgrade until it becomes clear whether the talks will in fact take place.

Israel defiant as world slams illegal settlements

November 18, 2009

Middle East Online, Nov. 18, 2009


Illegal Jewish settlers; armed, dangerous and radical

UN, US, UK, France slam Israel’s expansion of illegal settlements on Palestinian territories.

TEL AVIV – Israel on Wednesday sought to fend off criticism of its approval of hundreds of new illegal units in Palestinian East Jerusalem.

“Freezing construction in Gilo is just like freezing construction… in any other neighbourhood in Jerusalem and Israel,” extremist Interior Minister Eli Yishai, whose ministry issued the approval on Tuesday, said.

He was referring to the illegal settlement in which the previous day Israel approved the addition of 900 new housing units, a move that drove another stake into already hobbled US-led efforts to restart negotiations that were suspended during the Israeli war on Gaza at the turn of the year.

“Construction in Jerusalem cannot be halted and Gilo is in Jerusalem,” Yishai said.

Gilo is one of a dozen Jewish settlements in the eastern part of the Israeli-occupied Palestinian Holy City.

France added its voice to the chorus of Western condemnation of the move.

“It is a decision that we regret,” French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner said in Jerusalem hours before he was to meet with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and other senior officials in Jerusalem.

“We have to restart with the political discussions,” he said.

The move to approve the new units flew in the face of Palestinian calls for a complete freeze on new building ahead of fresh peace talks.

Washington was quick to say that it was “dismayed” at the decision.

“At a time when we are working to relaunch negotiations, these actions make it more difficult for our efforts to succeed,” said White House spokesman Robert Gibbs.

Israeli news reports said that Netanyahu had rejected a request from his US ally to halt construction in Gilo, but it was not clear whether the request concerned the project approved on Tuesday.

UN chief Ban Ki-moon also slammed the move, saying it “undermined efforts for peace and cast doubt on the viability of the two-state solution.”

“The secretary-general deplores the government of Israel’s decision today to expand Gilo settlement, built on Palestinian territory occupied by Israel in the 1967 war,” Ban’s spokesman said.

Noting that the settlements illegal, Ban appealed to Israel to respect its commitments to cease all settlement activity under the Road Map, a blue print for peace between Israel and the Palestinians under a so-called two-state solution.

The approval is likely to further hamper Washington’s so-far futile efforts to get Israelis and Palestinians back to the negotiating table, amid deep disagreements over the thorny issue of settlements.

Britain condemned Tuesday Israel’s green light for hundreds of new housing units, saying it made a peace deal more difficult.

Foreign Secretary David Miliband “has been very clear that a credible deal involves Jerusalem as a shared capital,” said a spokeswoman.

“Expanding settlements on occupied land in East Jerusalem makes that deal much harder. So this decision is wrong and we oppose it,” added the Foreign Office spokeswoman.

Meanwhile, Israeli President Shimon Peres called on Tuesday for Palestinians to “show that they control their own people” before seeking UN recognition of an independent state.

Abbas meanwhile said in Cairo on Tuesday that the plans to seek recognition of a Palestinian state have the backing of Arab countries and is not a “unilateral decision.”

The rival democratically elected Hamas movement said on Tuesday it was opposed to the creation of a Palestinian state before the end of the Israeli occupation.

Israel illegally occupied Palestinian East Jerusalem and the West Bank in 1967.

Under international law, neither East nor West Jerusalem is considered Israel’s capital. Tel Aviv is recognised as Israel’s capital, pending a negotiated settlement with the Palestinians.

East Jerusalem is considered by the international community to be illegally occupied by Israel, in contravention of several binding UN Security Council Resolutions.

In these resolutions, the United Nations Security Council has also called for no measures to be taken to change the status of Jerusalem until a final settlement is reached between the sides.

Declaring Jerusalem as Israel’s capital is an attempt to change this status, and is thus a violation of these Security Council resolutions.

All Jewish settlements are illegal under international law because they are built on Arab land (mainly Palestinian), illegally occupied by Israel since 1967.

The settlers adhere to radical ideologies and are extremely violent to almost-defenceless Palestinians.

Israel ministry wages settlement war against U.S.

June 9, 2009

Interior Minister Eli Yishai.
Tess Scheflan

By Mazal Mualem, Haaretz Correspondent
Haretz/Israel, June 8, 2009
Interior Minister Eli Yishai has begun to make good on a pledge to exploit all the resources of his ministry, “its branches and its influences over local government” to expand settlements in the territories.

Yishai, who is also chairman of Shas, made the promise last Thursday to the heads of the Yesha Council of settlements. His party is concerned by the freeze on construction that has been in effect since Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu took office, which Yishai said is “drying out” the settlements.

Haaretz has learned that Yishai has instructed officials at the Interior Ministry to come up with ways to help the settlers, by allowing continued construction within the major West Bank settlement blocs where building has stopped as a result of American pressure.

Yishai wants to include additional built-up areas within the city limits of towns in the major settlement blocs, effectively expanding those cities’ boundaries. Adjustment of the city limits, which is within the purview of the Interior Ministry, can mean the addition of several square kilometers to a locale’s jurisdiction – or the subtraction of said amount of land.

Yishai thus plans to ensure that city limits will be calculated in as liberal a way as possible, so that construction can eventually take place in the few additional square kilometers, to accommodate the “natural increase” of the population.

In addition, Yishai is hoping to allocate funding from the “interior minister’s reserves” to benefit settlements in the West Bank. These funds, amounting to several tens of millions of shekels, are distributed at the discretion of the minister without having to meet certain usual criteria.

The heads of the Yesha Council said they had the impression from their meeting with Yishai that the minister intended to allocate funding to the settlements from the ministerial reserves to “correct the existing distortion.”

Yishai also plans to change the law mandating special funding for outlying communities, which at present discriminates against the West Bank settlements, in his view. He said he wants to ensure that the law will help the peripheral areas, but will also be altered so as not to be biased.

Settlement discrimination

“Settlements in Judea and Samaria have suffered for many years from various forms of discrimination and distortion. I do not intend to examine the reason or figure out who was responsible for this. I intend to correct the situation. I believe that we do not have to be on a collision course with the Americans,” said Yishai. “There were understandings with previous administrations in the United States that allowed us to build in keeping with the natural increase and certainly within the limits of the settlements.”

He added that, “any steps the United States intends to take in the Middle East will have to be equitable. It is not right to start to enforce the issue of construction and not to make it equitable.”

Yishai was careful not to criticize Netanyahu directly. Rather, he aimed his barbs at the U.S. administration while promoting an independent ministerial policy that benefits West Bank settlement.


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