Who Do They Think They're Fooling?
Who do they think they are fooling? Earlier this month Israel announced new construction in Har Homa (see picture above) and Ma'aleh Adumim. Both areas disputed between Israel and the PA. This quickly became a sticking point in the naissant peace negotiations. The PA immediately said it would not talk about anything else until this new construction was halted. The U.S. sided with the Palestinians, reminding Israel that it had promised to halt new settlement activity while the negotiations where ongoing. Many - including myself, in this earlier blog item - accused Israel of deliberately sabotaging in the peace talks.
Now Olmert is trying to make it look like it was all an innocent mistake. According to an article in Haaretz, he was meeting with his housing minister, Ze'ev Boim, when the issue of this new construction just happened to "come up." This, after it had been headline news for two weeks, and after protests from both the PA and the U.S. Olmert "it was revealed" told Boim that from "now on" he wanted new construction to be based on "rational political decisions, and not be the result of a bureaucrat's action" (Oh those stupid bureaucrats! Its so hard to get good help these days.) This, after Boim had explicitly defended the construction only a week before. (See "Housing Min. rejects Rice warning against E. J'lem construction")
Olmert further is reported as saying: "he wanted to be involved in any building expansion plan in order to ensure that it does not contradict Israel's Road Map commitments or understandings reportedly reached with United States' President George Bush. The sources announced their intention to approve building only if we see that it does not detriment chances of reaching an agreement with the Palestinians."
Since Israel promised the U.S. to halt all new construction in the settlements, and since it is obvious the PA will not agree to the creation of "facts on the ground" precisely in the area it wished to negotiate about, what is there to decide? What building plans need to be considered?
Mark my words. We will see continued construction in the territories in 2008, despite the promised "peace talks." For Olmert, this is all about plausible deniability. Though, at this point, its hardly plausible.