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The Day In Israel: Wednesday Mar 10th, 2010

From the Department of Bad Timing:

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu sought to alleviate new tensions with the United States on Tuesday, after an announcement that Israel will build 1,600 new homes in an ultra-Orthodox East Jerusalem neighborhood drew strong condemnation from the White House, and visiting U.S. Vice President Joe Biden.

The prime minister reportedly promised Biden “No one was seeking to embarrass you or undermine your visit – on the contrary, you are a true friend to Israel.”

Biden arrived in Israel on Monday in an attempt to kick-start long-stalled peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians, which had been expected to resume in the coming days, but looked in danger Tuesday after a furious response from the Palestinians to the construction plan.

Netanyahu told Biden during their meeting in Jerusalem earlier in the day that he had had no prior knowledge of the decision to authorize the additional construction, and added that the program had been drafted three years ago and only received initial authorization that day. It could take several months, Netanyahu assured him, before the program is granted final approval.

Netanyahu told his guest that the regional councils are not under the political leadership’s direct authority, and that his administration tries not to interfere with their work.

A high-ranking official in Jerusalem, however, said Netanyahu has “no problem” with construction in Jerusalem and has no intention of apologizing for building there. The official acknowledged, however, that the announcement’s timing was harmful to Israel’s diplomatic interests.

“We didn’t want to humiliate Biden or sow division while he is in Israel,” the official said.

Updates (Israel time; most recent at top)?

11:40PM: Oh, this should be good:

Caretaker Prime Minister Salam Fayyad will open the first international conference on the theology of peace, justice and reconciliation in a Palestinain context, hosted by the Bethlehem Bible College and Holly Land Trust, organizers said.

The conference, titled Christ at the Checkpoint: Theology in the Service of Peace and Justice, is set to run 12-17 March, and “aims to equip the global church to understand Scripture as it relates to the Palestinian context,” a news brief about the conference said.

Perhaps a good starting point would be to look at references to the palestinians in scripture.

Yes, exactly.

8:00PM: Biased caption of the day:

Palestinian women supporters of the Islamic Jihad movement march during a rally against Israel’s decision to include two West Bank shrines on a list of national heritage sites, in the Jebaliya refugee camp, north of Gaza City, Wednesday, March 10, 2010. (AP Photo/Khalil Hamra)

Forgetting a minor detail there, Mr caption writer?

5:52PM: With Joe Biden in Israel, the PA ordered the cancellation of a ceremony to honor terrorist Dalal al-Mughrabi by naming a traffic circle near Ramallah after her and unveiling a memorial plaque.

Or should that be postponement.

4:50PM: Ynet reports:

US Vice President Joe Biden has told the Palestinians that they deserve a “viable” independent state with contiguous territory.

—-

At a news conference with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in Ramallah, Biden reiterated his condemnation of Israel’s plan and urged both sides to refrain from actions that could “inflame” tensions.

The American VP said Israel’s plan was undermining Palestinian faith in new peace negotiations.

“It is incumbent on both parties to build an atmosphere of support for negotiations and not to complicate them,” Biden told reporters.

“Yesterday the decision by the Israeli government to advance planning for new housing units in east Jerusalem undermines that very trust, the trust that we need right now in order to begin … profitable negotiations,” he said.

Abbas, for his part, urged Israel to commit to the peace process. “The Palestinians remain committed to peace as a strategic choice,” he said.

If I am not mistaken, Biden made this comments while standing under a banner of arch terrorist and father of the airline hijacking, Yasser Arafat, which serves as a reminder as to how the palestinians do not deserve a “viable” independent state with contiguous territory, and are not committed to peace as a strategic choice.

U.S. Vice President Joseph Biden, talks during a press conference with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, not pictured, as he is backdropped by a banner of the late Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat, in the West Bank city of Ramallah, Wednesday, March 10, 2010. Israel’s new plan to build 1,600 homes for Jews in Palestinian-claimed east Jerusalem overshadowed Biden’s visit to the West Bank on Wednesday.

3:10PM:  The Corrie circus is in town.

A court today began hearing a civil suit brought against the Israeli government over the death of Rachel Corrie, the US activist who was killed by an Israeli army bulldozer in Gaza seven years ago.

The case, brought before a Haifa court by Corrie’s family, challenges the official Israeli version of events in which the military said its troops were not to blame. The family hopes the hearing will be a chance to put on public record the events that led to their daughter’s death in March 2003. If the Israeli state is found responsible, the family will press for at least $300,000 (£201,000) in damages.

Before the hearing began, Craig Corrie, Rachel’s father, said the family had been on a “seven-year search for justice in Rachel’s name”.

“I think when the truth comes out about Rachel, the truth will not wound Israel, the truth is the start of making us heal,” he said.

Cindy Corrie, Rachel’s mother, said the family was still waiting for the credible, transparent investigation Israel first promised into her daughter’s death.

“I just want to say to Rachel that our family is here today trying to just do right by her and I hope that she will be very proud of the effort we are making,” she said.

The family’s lawyer, Hussein Abu Hussein, will argue that witness evidence shows the soldiers saw Corrie at the scene, with other activists, well before the incident and could have arrested her or removed her from the area before there was any risk of her being killed.

He will argue her death was either due to gross negligence by the Israeli authorities or was intentional.

Four key witnesses – three Britons and an American – who were at the scene in Rafah when Corrie was killed are to give evidence.

The first witness to give evidence was Richard Purssell, a Briton who was an ISM volunteer along with Corrie. He described how he had gone to Gaza to see the situation for himself and to prevent the Israeli military from demolishing Palestinian houses.

He said the ISM told him it was a strictly non-violent organisation. “Our role was to support Palestinian non-violent resistance.”

He briefly described the moment Corrie was killed. “Rachel disappeared inside the earth and the bulldozer continued for 4 metres and then reversed,” he told the court.

Corrie, who was born in Olympia, Washington, travelled to Gaza to act as a human shield at a moment of intense conflict between the Israeli military and the Palestinians.

On the day she died, when she was just 23, she was dressed in a fluorescent orange vest and was trying to stop the demolition of a Palestinian home in Rafah. She was crushed under a military Caterpillar D9R bulldozer and died shortly afterwards.

A month after her death the Israeli military said an investigation had determined its troops were not to blame and said the driver of the bulldozer had not seen her and did not intentionally run her over.

Instead, it accused her and the group she was with, the International Solidarity Movement (ISM), of behaviour that was “illegal, irresponsible and dangerous.”

The army report, obtained by the Guardian in April 2003, said she “was struck as she stood behind a mound of earth that was created by an engineering vehicle operating in the area and she was hidden from the view of the vehicle’s operator who continued with his work. Corrie was struck by dirt and a slab of concrete resulting in her death.”

But several witnesses offered a different version of events, saying the driver had seen her but continued anyway, hitting her with the bulldozer blade. She was severely injured and died shortly afterwards in an ambulance.

While Corrie was in the Palestinian territories, she wrote vividly about her experiences. Her diaries were later turned into a play, My Name is Rachel Corrie, which has toured internationally, including in Israel and the West Bank.

I have to chuckle. The ISM is constantly complaining when Israel arrests its “activists” (i.e. terror enablers) who are obstructing IDF operations designed to bring security to Israeli civilians. Yet now Corrie’s lawyer is arguing Israel could have arrested her.

Meanwhile, if you want to know more about what happened to Rachel Corrie, I suggest you start here:

The Upcoming Rachel Corrie Trial: Go After Her Real Killers

The Myth of Rachel Corrie

Rachel Corrie’s Dreams

Myths and Facts

11:52AM: Old and busted: settlement freeze.

New hotness: Illegal palestinian worker freeze.

Despite the hot weather, an ice cream truck investigated in Netanya on Tuesday was not transporting ice cream to bathers on the beach, but Palestinians illegally present in Israel.

Netanya police carried out routine checks in the city’s southern neighborhoods. “We got to Ramat Poleg beach, where we saw an ice cream truck parked near the restaurant on the beach,” Community Officer Avinoam Shoshan said. “I know this beach well, and know there isn’t an ice cream truck there usually. We observed the truck, and saw people going into the vehicle.”

The vehicle and the activity around it raised the suspicions of the police. “We decided to check it out from close up,” Shoshan said

“We knocked on the vehicle, but nobody opened it. We continued until finally the door was opened and people began to exit – not one or two, but 14, one after the other. Upon investigation, we saw that the vehicle’s storage area had been turned into a big bedroom, for 14 people.”

Further checks revealed that all 14 are Palestinians who are in Israel illegally. Some of them have a criminal past, some are not permitted to enter at all.

6:18AM: Interview with a Syrian political analyst regarding Syria’s claim that Israel dropped uranium particles in an attempt to justify bombing a desert site.

Noteworthy: Syrian political analyst’s “didn’t hear your question” when faced with a tough one, followed by lame answer (from 1:40 onwards).

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About the author

Picture of David Lange

David Lange

A law school graduate, David Lange transitioned from work in the oil and hi-tech industries into fulltime Israel advocacy. He is a respected commentator and Middle East analyst who has often been cited by the mainstream media
Picture of David Lange

David Lange

A law school graduate, David Lange transitioned from work in the oil and hi-tech industries into fulltime Israel advocacy. He is a respected commentator and Middle East analyst who has often been cited by the mainstream media
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