The Day In Israel: Tuesday May 11th, 2010

Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu: “Um, it’s not a building freeze. It just is.”

Binyamin NetanyahuIsraeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu insists that Israel did not make any pledges to the US, even after US Special Envoy to the Middle East George Mitchell declared Sunday that Israel has agreed to freeze construction in Ramat Shlomo for a period of two years.

The PM stressed that additional construction in the east Jerusalem neighborhood was not scheduled to begin in the next two years due to bureaucratic, rather than political, constraints.

Speaking at a Likud faction meeting Monday, the prime minister said, “Regarding the American announcement, I want to make it clear that my office issued a statement on March 11, during Joe Biden’s visit to Israel, saying that the PM has informed the American vice president that planning the housing project in Ramat Shlomo will take more than a year and that actual construction may begin only a few years from now.

“When the Americans asked us to estimate when construction will begin, I said that I don’t believe it will begin before the two-year period ends,” said Netanyahu, “This is just a factual description of the (housing) project’s status.”

According to the prime minister, Israel did not make any commitment, but provided a “factual and accurate description.”

“Furthermore,” Netanyahu told the faction meeting, “We are clearly stating that there will be no delays in planning and construction throughout Jerusalem. I am not saying that the Americans are in agreement with us on this matter. There are disagreements – and it is possible that (the US) will tell us so, but we have made it clear that our construction policy in Jerusalem is no different than the policies of all Israeli governments over the past 43 years.”

I could be wrong, but it seems to me that Bibi may not be telling the entire truth, and is rather saying what it takes to placate both the US and Israelis.

Updates (Israel time; most recent at top)? ??

10:00PM: Mental note: If Hizbullah decide to attack us again, it may not be good idea to agree to a UN resolution which involves trusting  the Lebanese to disarm Hizbullah.

Another mental note: That Walid Jumblatt is one ugly bastard.

5:40PM: Following my request to you yesterday, I’m not seeing any pro-Israel/anti palestinian terrorism messages being posted to the wall of Silverstein’s latest Facebook group.

Either you guys have not heeded my call, or Silverstein has banned you as well.

If the former, please join the group and post to the Wall regarding Israel’s struggle against terrorism and Richard Silverstein’s pro-terrorist proclivities.

5:30PM: A crisis between Israel and Russia has reportedly been narrowly averted.

There was a small-scale, short-lived diplomatic tiff between Israel and Russia overnight Monday, as authorities in St. Petersburg barred an Arkia plane from flying out of the city.

The minor crisis began to unfold on Monday night, as 260 passengers waited at the Moscow airport for their flight to Ben Gurion International Airport, originally scheduled for 7 p.m. Many of them were pensioners who had just completed a tour of Russia, unaware that the plane which was to take them back to Israel was stuck at the airport of a different Russian city.

The cause for the delay was apparently a demand by Russian authorities to see the passengers’ tourist visas.

Attempts by the pilots and crew to explain that Israel and Russia signed an agreement to cancel tourist visa requirements in 2008 proved to be futile as authorities adamantly refused to allow the plane to take off from St. Petersburg to Moscow, and from there to Ben Gurion.

Russian and Israeli diplomats tried to intervene despite the late hour. However, it was a last-ditch effort by the Israel Airports Authority (IAA) that saved the day and averted a full-blown crisis, as a Russian Transaero Airlines plane with passengers on board was prevented from flying out of Ben Gurion Airport.

The Arkia plane was subsequently permitted to leave Russia, and made its way to Israel on Tuesday morning.

If I am following this correctly, we averted a crisis by detaining a Russian plane.

4:42PM: Just some innocent gestures, or has Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu been caught using disproportionate force against a fly?





12:52PM: As senior Arab priest has learned the hard way that when you hire a palestinian to renovate your house, it is best you allow him to stick to renovating your house.

A new scandal involving a senior Arab priest is rocking Israel’s Christian-Arab community. Ynet has learned that according to the suspicions, a senior Arab priest was blackmailed on sexual grounds by two men.

According to several sources, the cleric had an intimate relationship with a 21-year-old Palestinian from east Jerusalem when the latter was renovating his house.

Palestinian sources said the young man’s friend became part of the sexual relations – which were given for money – about two months ago. At a certain stage, the sources added, the priest stopped paying for the “service”.

Later on, the two young men approached the cleric, informed him that he had been videotaped, and demands $100,000 for the tape. The amazed priest decided to go the police, which launched an investigation.

The two men were caught in a trap set by the investigators, and the police have arrested another suspect in the affair.

The religious scholar involved in the affair is in his 50s and has filled a series of roles in the church and in its education institutions over the years. He is known for his harsh and firm speeches, as well as for his nationalistic and anti-Israel opinions, and is a well known figure in the West Bank.

The same man has extensive ties Arab elements in the Palestinian Authority, in Israel and abroad. In the past, he was even suspected of having illegal ties with foreign agents.

Hmm. Who could it be?

6:15AM: I may not always agree with Israeli President Shimon Peres, but that doesn’t mean his moments of lucidity go unnoticed by me.

President Shimon Peres took a jab Monday at European states that recently criticized Israel, saying that unlike their conduct in World War II, Israel has never asked that American soldiers fight on its behalf.

The president stressed that no other country shares a similar history with Israel, which has been forced to go to war seven times in its 62-year history.
“Some people in the West criticize Israel. Yet when many of them fought, they asked for America’s help,” he said.

Peres emphasized that while Israel shares a friendship with the United States, it has never asked American mothers to send their children to fight for Israel or alongside the Jewish State.

“We fought on our own, and we won on our own” he said.


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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