Jewish building teams are or have been at work in only two locations as of now, Monday morning: At Joseph’s Tomb in Shechem and in the city of Ariel.All in all, the fact that the moratorium has not been extended (so far), is something of an accomplishment--especially since many feared that Netanyahu would end up backing down and giving into US, and worldwide, pressure.
Work at Joseph’s Tomb actually started on Saturday night. A new, five-ton gravestone was placed on the site, with the help of cranes, atop the exact spot on which the original stone was vandalized and destroyed by Arabs over the course of the past years.
In Ariel, the 4th largest city in Judea and Samaria with some 17,000 residents, work began this morning on more than 50 new housing units. The new homes have been designated for the former residents of Netzarim, who have been displaced since the Disengagement/Expulsion of 2005. Defense Minister Ehud Barak refused to make an exception in their case, and the freeze thus applied to their new homes as well.
It is even a greater accomplishment if you take into account the mistakes made--as recounted by Nahum Barnea:
Obama erred when he turned the settlement construction freeze from a respectable heart’s desire to an ultimate demand. He set a bar that the Palestinians cannot compromise on. He erred when he agreed to a 10-month framework, and he erred when ahead of the end of this period he openly demanded an extension.So it seems that Bibi has survived this major hurdle.
In his latest declarations, Obama greatly minimized the Israeli prime minister’s room for maneuver. The president let Netanyahu choose between two options: Either a humiliating capitulation to American dictates, or a head-on confrontation with the US. Meanwhile, he did not advance by even an inch his declared goal: Securing a peace treaty within a year.
Netanyahu erred when he endorsed a time-limited freeze. The 10 months were a tough corner. From the first day of the freeze, it was clear that Netanyahu would have great trouble extracting himself from that corner. He also erred when he made binding statements about ending the freeze. By doing so, he turned the debate on extending the freeze from a policy dispute to a debate about character; his character.
Abbas erred when he delayed his consent to direct negotiations for a year. He erred when he allowed his fellow Palestinian leaders to turn the talks into a hostage in the hands of settlement construction. He gained short-term profit, because settlement construction is an issue which the world shows no understanding to and doesn’t accept. Yet the short-term profit is a long-term loss. An issue of secondary importance replaced issues that are fateful for the Palestinians.
But just because Bibi did not cave on the moratorium, that does not mean that Abbas is not going to push for another concession:
Abbas reportedly asked that jailed Palestinians be released as good will gesture to help talks move forward; Israel yet to respond.According to Mounir Mansour, the head of the Palestinian Prisoners Committee, this is supposed to improve Abbas's image on the Palestinian street and give him a mandate to continue peace talks with Israel.
The Palestinian Authority has asked Israel to immediately release dozens of political prisoners incarcerated in Israeli prisons as a good will gesture that will help give peace talks between the sides momentum going forward, Israel Radio reported on Sunday.
This of course is laughable, since Abbas has no mandate to begin with--his term ended nearly 2 years ago and Abbas has avoided elections since.
Just to be clear on how outlandish the request is, Mansour pointed out that this is only an 'intermediary' measure: once a final agreement is reached, the PA expects that all 7,000 Arab
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