Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu has agreed to ask his cabinet to approve a 90-day extension of the moratorium on building in West Bank settlements in return for a series of incentives including the sale of 20 new fighter jets to Israel. Cabinet approval reportedly depends on the willingness of the Shas Party ministers either to abstain or absent themselves from the vote. Shas’s chairman says his party is willing to see the extension approved “if it is made clear in a letter from the president of the United States that construction will take place in Jerusalem immediately, and that after 90 days, it will be possible to build everywhere, without restrictions.”
As a matter of principle, and in the interests of clarity, I would have preferred to see Israel refuse to extend the moratorium and get on with construction. However, I can understand why Netanyahu decided to appease the U.S. on this matter.
To deny President Obama something as inconsequential as three more months of non-building in the West Bank would have been viewed, in the aftermath of the Democrats’ “shellacking,” as kicking Obama when he’s down. And it might well have been viewed this way not just by Obama but also by Jewish liberals in the U.S. That perception is probably not in Israel’s interest.
Under these circumstances, it was not unreasonable for Netanyahu to collect the goodies Obama offered, plus the prospect of some good will (if not from Obama, whose anti-Netanyahu sentiment may preclude good will, then at least from Jewish liberals), in exchange for the three months. Unless the Palestinian Authority radically transforms itself during that period, Israel will end up with the planes and the apartments.
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