OK, so not only did the Israeli Defense Ministry announce the permit for 112 new apartment units at Beiter Illit on the eve of Biden’s visit (which the Americans were reluctantly willing to overlook), but then the government announced the approval of construction of 1,600 new Jewish homes in East Jerusalem.
I’m not sure which is more surprising — the stupidity or the brazenness of the Israeli actions. I realize there are bureaucratic procedures in place for new settlement permits, but announcing the expansion of settlements not once, but twice, with the American Vice President in country is pretty special even for Netanyahu’s government.
We’ll see where this goes, but Biden was probably the last guy from this administration the Israelis should have dissed. From Laura Rosen this morning:
“People who heard what Biden said [to Israeli officials behind closed doors] were stunned,” the centrist Israeli daily newspaper Yedioth Ahronoth reported. “‘This is starting to get dangerous for us,’ Biden castigated his interlocutors. ‘What you’re doing here undermines the security of our troops who are fighting in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan. That endangers us, and it endangers regional peace.’”
The fact that Israeli officials were “stunned” speaks volumes about how casual their disrespect for the Obama administration has become. Biden’s language — explicitly tying Israeli settlements to the security of American troops operating in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Pakistan — may well be a break through not only with the Israeli government and public, but also with Americans as well. We’ll see.