Maariv: Secret US-Israeli agreement on construction in East J’lem
Ben Caspit, Maariv, April 26 2010 [Hebrew original here]
Israel and the US have reached secret agreements about construction in Jerusalem. Both sides agreed to leave the agreements between themselves and not make them public, and if they should be leaked nevertheless, deny them vigorously. The purpose is in order not to create difficulties for Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu in the coalition, and particularly in the Likud party.
The agreements indicate that contrary to Israeli boasting, Netanyahu’s answer to Obama regarding Jerusalem was not “No.” It was something in the middle, a little closer to the far end (a freeze) than the close one (continued construction at full tilt). The most accurate translation for this agreement is “Yes, but.” It is possible that Netanyahu has learned something from the bad old days of Shimon Peres, during which he got the nickname “Yes and no.” Now it is Netanyahu’s turn.
The agreements were made in a very long series of meetings and discussions between the parties. Attorney Yitzhak Molcho worked for Netanyahu. Working on the American side was mostly Dan Shapiro, the director of the Middle East department at the National Security Council.
As far as anyone knows, the parties agreed that no construction freeze would be announced. On the contrary, Netanyahu may continue to announce that he did not agree to a freeze. But in reality, Netanyahu agreed to delay the Ramat Shlomo project by at least several years and not to issue any new construction tenders in Jerusalem.
He also promised “to do as much as the law allows and use his full authority as prime minister to prevent unnecessary Israeli activity in the Arab neighborhoods in East Jerusalem. These agreements do not include the procedures that are already being carried out, such as, for example, the Shepherd Hotel in East Jerusalem.
Another agreement between the parties is that if Netanyahu should encounter a particularly severe crisis or heavy pressure, or if these agreements should be leaked, there will be a tendency to let him approve a small number of symbolic construction projects in secret coordination with the Americans so that it will continue to look as though he did not give in.
In the end, the agreement is a good and effective one. The Americans are moving forward with it, and the members of the forum of seven are willing to accept it as well. It is saying no and acting yes. In the current situation, if there are no last-minute surprises, there will soon be an announcement of the resumption of the proximity talks between the parties. The Palestinians will go with it, and the Americans will finally be able to finish the job and check off the first item on their to-do list.
They made a big strategic mistake in their insistence on a construction freeze in Jerusalem from the first moment. They paid dearly for it. Now they will try to make up for it, but they will find fairly quickly that the worst of all is still ahead.
Netanyahu is not where they think he is. The reports that the prime minister has offered the Palestinians a state with temporary borders are premature. The plan has existed for a long time. It was created by Shimon Peres and Ehud Barak (and also, separately, by Shaul Mofaz). Just as he did then, Netanyahu has expressed his agreement in secret, but hopes that something will come along to blow up the whole matter, and not move it forward. Prepare for the next crisis.