Well, that didn't last long!
Palestinians - and the U.S., but in much quieter tones, - had been demanding a total cessation of Israeli construction in the West bank as a condition for continued peace negotiations. The Palestinians felt, rightly in my opinion, that Israel would, as in the past, drag on negotiations while at the same time gobbling up more and more Palestinian land and creating more and more facts on the ground that pre-empt ever handing over the disputed land to a future Palestinian state. They had demanded and total cessation of all construction in all of the West Bank and East Jerusalem.
Instead, on Nov 25, Israeli PM Netanyahu announced that Israel was "magnanimously" and "unilaterally" (both seems to be favourite Israeli government terms) instituting a 10 month “freeze” on construction in the West Bank. A great show of good will! says the PM.
The Palestinians rejected this as being too little, and little more than a smoke screen.
- It did not include East Jerusalem.
- It did not include construction of projects with existing permits.
- It did not include “public buildings”.
- And it was to last only 10 months.
Israel insisted this was a major and a sincere effort to show good will and to restrict growth of Israeli settlements into disputed lands.
The new policy was to go into effect, yesterday. Today, one day into the new regime, an exception was announced. Permits will be issued for 84 new, previously not permited, buildings – representing 492 residential units – to be built in the West Bank. And work can begin during the “freeze.”
As meagre as Israel’s original gesture had been, the government couldn’t even live within its own parameters for 24 hours! The pressure from the Israeli right (both in and outside the government) was simply too great.
And if the U.S. or the Palestineans don't like it, too damn bad.