Netanyahu Approves East Jerusalem Construction Hours Before Obama Address

On May 19th, the same day that President Obama delivered a major foreign policy speech and the day before Obama met with Prime Minister Netanyahu, the Regional Planning Committee – acting with the knowledge and consent of Prime Minister Netanyahu – considered and approved two new major plans for settlement construction in East Jerusalem (see below for details).

As we reported previously, the Regional Planning Committee was scheduled to consider the plans twice before, but in both cases the Prime Minister had ordered consideration of the plans to be delayed. The plans were originally scheduled for consideration on April 14th, but were taken off the agenda of days before the meeting, reportedly because of the scheduled meeting of the Quartet (a meeting that was canceled).  Consideration was immediately re-scheduled for May 5th.  Consideration of the plans was subsequently again taken off the agenda by Netanyahu, this time apparently in order to avoid “incidents” during Netanyahu’s visits to London and Paris.  Consideration was at that point rescheduled for May 19th.  Based on past experience, it had been expected that consideration would be again delayed until after Netanyahu’s visit to Washington.  That expectation was proven incorrect.

Netanyahu’s decision to allow the committee to go ahead with consideration/approval of these plans on May 19th discloses a truth that has been overlooked, thus far, in all the analysis of the past days U.S.-Israel news:  Netanyahu had decided to approve controversial and provocative construction in East Jerusalem – plans he had recently deferred due to their sensitivity – hours before the May 19 Presidential Mid-East address and  on the eve of the Washington meeting.  He had decided, in advance, to go to Washington in a belligerent/adversarial mode, defying President Obama to challenge him. 

This decision to challenge and publicly embarrass Obama with another Jerusalem settlement provocation is consistent with the pattern of settlement provocations that has marked virtually every meeting between Netanyahu and a high-level U.S. official since Netanyahu took office in 2009.

And stunningly, it was taken at a time when, according to Israeli sources, the Prime Minister’s office was confident that the May 19th speech would not include anything they did not want to hear, and that the Obama-Netanyahu meeting would be nothing more than a display of the American president’s esteem for and solidarity with the Israeli prime minister.

The plans in question are TP 11647, for 625 units in Pisgat Zeev, and TP 10390, for 983 units in Har Homa (beyond the existing built-up area, significantly expanding the footprint of the settlement with what will be called “Har Homa C”).  For a map of these plans, click here