by: David Harris-Gershon on December 25th, 2013 | 1 Comment »
With Israel set to release a new slate of Palestinian prisoners as part of U.S.-brokered peace talks, John Kerry – at President Obama’s behest – personally asked Israel’s Prime Minister, Binyamin Netanyahu, to hold off on announcing new settlement construction plans.
Such an announcement could, in the Obama administration’s view, undermine any positive momentum generated by Israel’s prisoner release, thus poisoning the talk’s already murky waters.
Today, Haaretz is reporting that Israel plans to thumb its nose at the Obama administration (as well as the EU) by announcing new housing tenders in the West Bank and East Jerusalem after the prisoner release.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is expected to announce Israel’s plans for new housing tenders in settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem next week, following the release of the third group of Palestinian prisoners, an official in Jerusalem said Wednesday.
Netanyahu did not heed the United States’ request to postpone the announcement of the new tenders and rejected warnings by the European Union which also urged Netanyahu to avoid announcing the new construction following the prisoner release.
It’s a move Israel made immediately after its last prisoner release – a move intended to blunt right-wing criticism, but which left Palestinians apoplectic. This time around, Kerry and Obama are hoping to avoid such a scene. However, Netanyahu’s government appears unwilling to honor America’s request, particularly after an uptick in violence which has left innocent civilians dead on both sides.
Now, forget for a moment the absurdity of this scenario from a U.S. policy perspective: that the Obama administration is groveling with Israel to delay announcing its illegal settlement expansions, rather than demand that they cease altogether.
What’s more absurd is that just days ago, officials in Netanyahu’s government chided the U.S. for behavior unbecoming of a friend. That chiding came when Israel learned via documents released by Edward Snowden that the NSA had been spying on Israeli dignitaries.
Israel has every right to call America’s behavior “unacceptable” with regard to its NSA surveillance initiatives. The NSA’s intelligence activities have been abhorrent, and deserve critique from all quarters where they have overreached.
However, it takes chutzpah to chide America for bad behavior just before giving the Obama administration a metaphorical middle finger. Particularly when one considers that the U.S. gives Israel $3 billion annually and requested that Israel merely delay announcing its illegal activities, rather than cease them altogether.
Of course, if Israel isn’t happy with America’s behavior and demanding requests, it could simply return this fiscal year’s $3 billion as a show of protest.
Such a move would really show the Obama administration how Israel feels about being asked to delay future announcements.
David Harris-Gershon is author of the memoir What Do You Buy the Children of the Terrorist Who Tried to Kill Your Wife?, just out from Oneworld Publications.
Follow him on Twitter @David_EHG.