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Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Biden's distractions

I'd like to share with you some random thoughts I've had today (Wednesday) about Tuesday's announcement that 1,600 new apartments have been approved for Ramat Shlomo, a neighborhood I know well, while Joe Biden is here visiting. For the record, while there are well over 2,000 apartments already in Ramat Shlomo, this is a significant expansion.

Recall this from Caroline Glick's Friday column last week:
In light of the gaping disparity between the Obama administration’s policies and those of the Israeli government, the apparent goal of Biden’s address is to shore up the position of the Israeli Left as an alternative to Netanyahu. Apparently, the picture emerging from all of the senior US officials’ meetings with Netanyahu is that Israel’s leader still feels comfortable defying them.
So can we label Biden's mission an epic fail yet? Yes, I know, there's no proof that Bibi knew this was going to happen - after all it was technically a decision of the Jerusalem District Planning Commission and the Interior Ministry. The Interior Minister, Eli Yishai, went on the radio Wednesday morning and denounced the timing. Come on. Even I don't believe that they didn't know this was going to happen in Biden's face. This reminds me of the Shamir days when every time a Bush administration envoy showed up here, a new 'settlement' went up. Not that I am objecting.

Second, the purpose of this mission is supposed to be getting on the 'same page' about Iran. Yes, Biden is going to see the 'Palestinians' as long as he is in the neighborhood. But with US Special Middle East envoy George Mitchell having left here around the same time Biden arrived, it was clear that this mission really was supposed to be about Iran. Could it be that Netanyahu is more comfortable defending Jewish housing in 'east' Jerusalem (which he never promised to freeze anyway) than he is about telling Biden to his face that Israel will make its own decision when and if to attack Iran? Maybe.

Third, as Wesley Pruden points out, the Israeli public is not buying what Biden has to sell (Hat Tip: OyVayBlog via Soccer Dad via Twitter):
A full decade ago, Bill Clinton, posing as the best friend the Jews ever had — feeling their pain, pointing with pride to his undying love for Israel and viewing with alarm the occasional venal sins of the Palestinians — imposed some of the most hostile policies the United State ever foisted on Israel. This so effectively undermined Mr. Netanyahu that he was booted from office.

But that was then, and the Israeli public, like the government, has scant appetite for saccharine this time. It's just as well. Mr. Obama reserves his sweet talk for Arab provocateurs; he made his apology tour of the Muslim world early in his presidency but still can't find time to visit America's only reliably democratic ally in the Middle East. Good old Joe is the best messenger the president can find to take the bitter medicine to Jerusalem. He's regarded, at least by himself, as the best friend Israel has at the White House. Some friend. As a senator, he voted against sanctions against Iran, said he didn't see anything necessarily wrong with Iranian nuclear ambitions and grumbled that George W. Bush should be impeached if he sent Americans to bomb the Iranian nuclear plants. He'll blow some kisses at Israel this week, but none of them will be wet. Good old Joe will only be going through the motions of a duty dance.
Fourth, Kadima MK Yoel Hasson blasted the Netanyahu government for approving the new housing units.
MK Yoel Hasson (Kadima) said "Humiliating the vice president of the US, Joe Bidden, is far worse than the humiliation of the Turkish ambassador by Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon." Hasson added, "They humiliated the Turkish ambassador with a low chair, but the US vice president they humiliated with 1,600 housing units."

"Netanyahu runs the government amateurishly, in a way that is reminiscent of the way a Likud branch is run in some godforsaken town," he said.
If anyone has an appropriate photoshop to depict Biden's humiliation I'd love to see it.

But more importantly, Hasson conveniently forgets that during the last government, which was led by his party, the Housing Ministry approved 1,300 units (I guess the number has increased since then) in Ramat Shlomo on a Friday, when then-Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice was due to arrive in Israel on Saturday night of the same week. Rice condemned us then too. Where was Hasson? Or is he saying that if the Interior Ministry and the planning council had made their move the day before Biden got here it would have been okay?

And for the record, when the talks between Olmert and Abu Mazen fell apart at the end of 2008, one of the places on the list that the 'Palestinians' had agreed that Israel could keep was... Ramat Shlomo.

Fifth, Andrew Sullivan is having conniptions over poor, humiliated Joe Biden. Heh.

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