Israeli official: Obama’s settlement critique ‘an alibi’ for planned anti-Israel moves
Raphael Ahren, Times of Israel, Oct 6 2016
Shaked arrives for the weekly cabinet meeting at the PMO, Sep 27 2016.
(Photo: Marc Israel Sellem)
An Israel official on Thursday deepened the latest dispute with the Obama administration over settlement-building by charging that “disproportionate criticism” from Washington over the latest construction plans is “an alibi” to cover plans by Obama to take anti-Israel actions in the final weeks of his presidency. Speaking to Channel 2 news, the unnamed “senior political source” insisted that newly announced plans to build some 300 homes for Jews in the West Bank do not constitute a new settlement, and do not breach any commitments made by Israel to Pindostan. The TV report stressed that the comments did not constitute an official response from the government, and noted that Netanyahu has not responded to the Pindo criticism. The White House on Wednesday accused Israel of a betrayal of trust over the new plans. Josh Earnest said:
We did receive public assurances from the Israeli government that contradict this announcement. I guess when we’re talking about how good friends treat one another, that’s a source of serious concern as well.
In a similarly strongly-worded statement, the State Dept’s Mark Toner said:
(We deplore Israel’s) recent decision to advance a plan that would create a significant new settlement deep in the West Bank. It is disheartening that while Israel and the world mourned the passing of Pres Peres, and leaders from Pindostan and other nations prepared to honor one of the great champions of peace, plans were advanced that would seriously undermine the prospects for the two state solution that he so passionately supported.
But the senior source told Channel 2 Thursday:
The building plans breach no commitments, they do not constitute a new settlement, and they will not bring more settlers into the West Bank, since they are new homes for settlers who are to be evicted from Amona. This disproportionate criticism is an alibi for one-sided actions being planned by Obama, even though Obama pledged to Netanyahu that he won’t take any one-sided actions concerning Israel.
Israeli government members have been worried that Obama, before leaving office in January but after a successor is chosen in November, may seek to impose or advance a solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, or at least set out parameters for how it should be solved. The TV report said cabinet ministers had been taken aback by the ferocity of the Pindo reaction. Ayelet Shaked said Thursday evening she did not think that the Pindo administration would take any “mean-spirited” steps against the Jewish state, such as deciding not to veto anti-Israel UNSCRs, in response to the building plans. Earlier Thursday, she told Army Radio:
Pindostan should focus its condemnation on Syria, rather than criticizing where Israel builds houses! When the Middle East is in flames, when on the borders of Jordan and Syria dozens of men, women and children are slaughtered, making a statement like this over a decision by the Defense Ministry to build a few dozen homes for the residents of Amona is completely out of proportion! I think we need to build in Yesha! Pindostan is a good friend, we are partners and we pay attention to what they say. But at the end of the day Israel has to do what is best for us.
According to the Channel 2 report,
the Pindo leadership Obama personally was particularly infuriated at the announcement of new building so soon after the Obama Administration agreed he personally negotiated a record-breaking 10-year military assistance package for Israel, and right after Obama came to Israel, in a show of respect and solidarity, for the funeral of former president Peres last Friday. The TV report also quoted Amona residents saying the planned new housing was no solution for them, since it would take four years to build and they are scheduled to be evicted in just a few months. Israel’s Foreign Ministry earlier rejected the harsh criticism from Pindostan, saying in a statement:
The 98 housing units approved in Shiloh do not constitute a ‘new settlement.’ This housing will be built on state land in the existing settlement of Shiloh and will not change its municipal boundary or geographic footprint.
Israel last week approved the construction of the new housing units for the homeowners of Amona ahead of its court-ordered evacuation. The plan calls for two phases of construction, with a further 200 units to be approved after a first round of 98 homes is completed. The Foreign Ministry also reiterated Israel’s stance that the settlements are not the main cause of the stalled peace process with the Palestinians, saying:
The real obstacle to peace is not the settlements, a final status issue that can and must be resolved in negotiations between the parties, but the persistent Palestinian rejection of a Jewish state in any boundaries.