Joe Biden and Obama 'humiliated' by Israel? Well, not exactly.
Commentators have called Israel's announcement of new settlement construction in East Jerusalem during Vice President Joe Biden's visit a humiliation. But the Palestinian leadership still appears willing to give talks a chance.
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"Netanyahu prides himself on his decades-long relationship with Biden, but managed to destroy it Tuesday night when Israel spat in the vice president's face," the influential intelligence and security columnist Avi Isacharoff wrote in Israel's left-leaning Haaretz newspaper. "(Defense Minister Ehud) Barak and Netanyahu's grave explanations, that they "didn't know," "didn't hear," didn't see" each time a new plan is approved for construction, (or on the flip side, demolition) in East Jerusalem - see Sheikh Jarrah, Silwan and more - are dwarfed by the current embarrassment caused to the American administration."
Even the right-leaning and generally pro-settler Jerusalem Post described the settlement announcement as a blunder in an editorial.
After describing a visit that had gotten off to a dream start from the Israeli perspective, with Biden saying Israel had "captured my heart," the paper explained how the mood quickly soured. "In a staggering example of diplomatic obtuseness, the Interior Ministry’s Jerusalem Regional Planning and Construction Commission announced the approval of 1,600 additional housing units in Ramat Shlomo ... inside the sovereign city limits, but squarely over the pre-1967 Green Line," it wrote. "Biden and his wife Jill arrived over an hour late to dinner with Netanyahu and his wife Sarah on Tuesday night. And when they finally did show up, they brought with them what constituted a major league castigation."
That may be so. But the big prize that Biden was dispatched to secure – restarted peace talks – seems secure for now. Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas was upset about the construction ahead of a meeting with Biden in Ramallah on the West Bank on Wednesday, but indicated that plans for resumed talks will go forward.
Still, the incident demonstrated the political clout the settler movement continues to wield in Israel and the hot-button issue of continuing Israeli construction in East Jerusalem, which the Palestinians believe is an Israeli attempt to create facts on the ground that will deprive them of the place they eventually hope to place their capital.
Ynetnews, the English-language service of Yedioth Ahronoth, Israel's largest circulation Hebrew daily, carried a brief story this week illustrating that at least some of the ultra-orthodox settlers are not amenable to compromise.
Ynet described ultra-orthodox settlers in the still largely Palestinian East Jerusalem neighborhood of Sheikh Jarrah celebrating the Jewish holiday of Purim on March 1 with songs of praise for Baruch Goldstein, the Israeli settler who murdered 29 unarmed Palestinians at the Cave of the Patriarchs in Hebron in 1994.
"Dr. Goldstein, there is none other like you in the world. Dr. Goldstein, we all love you … he aimed at terrorists' heads, squeezed the trigger hard, and shot bullets, and shot, and shot," Ynet reported.