Susie Becher
Ynetnews (Opinion)
March 19, 2010 - 12:00am,7340,L-3864956,00.html

Most of the headlines and commentary since the announcement of the Ramat Shlomo building plans during Vice President Biden’s visit have focused on the crisis in relations between Israel and the United States. There is certainly cause for concern that the current Israeli government has finally pushed the Obama administration too far, but the more serious issue for Israel’s citizens should be the unmasking of Israel’s intentions vis-à-vis the Palestinians.

The government’s explanations regarding the unfortunate timing and its reassurances that the actual construction will not take place for years only underscore the fact that Prime Minister Netanyahu has – to echo the language used by his coalition partner after the collapse of the Camp David summit – “exposed the true face” of one party to the conflict, only this time the revelation that there is no partner applies to the Israeli side.

Had Israel demonstrated greater sensitivity toward its American guest and deferred the approval to a later date, the current crisis with the United States might have been averted and the proximity talks might not have been endangered, but for those who see the resumption of Israeli-Palestinian negotiations not as a measure to placate the international community but as a path toward a final-status agreement, the timing of the announcement and the timeline for the construction are irrelevant.

What matters here is that Netanyahu has made it clear that President Abbas’ reservations about entering negotiations for the sake of negotiations are totally justified. Netanyahu may have uttered the words “Palestinian state,” but the gulf between the state he envisions and a viable state with contiguous territory and East Jerusalem as its capital appears unbridgeable.

Shatter the myth

There is a lesson here for all those who bought the story that the Right “stole” the agenda of the Left; for the misguided leaders of the Geneva Initiative who circulated a clip showing an astonished Yossi Beilin watching Bibi supposedly parroting his words; for the Meretz voters who gave their vote to Tzipi Livni, forgetting that when the Kadima chair said she would put Jerusalem on the table she rushed to add that only by bringing the issue out in the open could she defend Jerusalem as the eternal, indivisible capital of Israel.

This is the moment for the Left to stand up and draw the line, to shatter the myth of consensus and tell the public that a united Jerusalem under Israeli sovereignty and a peace agreement with the Palestinians will never go hand in hand.

Even if one were to accept the unlikely premise that Netanyahu did not know in advance of the building decision or that the move was not orchestrated by Interior Minister Eli Yishai, the very fact that settlement construction in Jerusalem has been left in the hands of a district committee proves that the government considers this a trivial matter.

In the eyes of the prime minister and his coalition partners, the future boundaries of Jerusalem have already been decided, and they leave no room for a Palestinian capital in any part of the holy city. That being the case, the Palestinians’ reluctance to take part in yet another dog and pony show designed to preserve the empty shell known as the peace process is easy to understand.

In an interview after losing office in 1992, former Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir admitted that his intention had been to conduct negotiations for 10 years while allowing the settlement population in the territories to multiply. Recent events show that there is no need to await the end of Netanyahu’s term to hear a similar admission from the horse’s mouth. His actions alone speak loud enough.


American Task Force on Palestine - 1634 Eye St. NW, Suite 725, Washington DC 20006 - Telephone: 202-262-0017