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From a Palestinian perspective, it's hard to imagine better timing for U.S. Vice President Joe Biden's visit to Ramallah on Wednesday. Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas won't have speak at great length nor lay on the charm to persuade Biden, White House staff or the U.S. Consulate in East Jerusalem that Netanyahu government is not serious when it says it wants peace. One must admit that the current diplomatic process between Israel and the Palestinians is not about reaching a peace deal - each side is convinced that the other is either not serious or incapable.

The PA and Israel, in agreeing to proximity talks, are ultimately trying to placate the Obama administration, and prove how much the other side is thwarting the peace process. And thus with a game of one-upmanship, the timing of the decision by the Jerusalem District Planning Committee to build another 1,600 housing units over the Green Line, plays right into the hands of the Palestinians.

Even so, it is not as though anyone in the Palestinian Authority really believed Netanyahu, Lieberman, Barak et al wanted peace, even before this latest stunt. The Israeli government is doing all it can to prove that it is not interested in a final status agreement based on the 1967 borders (as demanded by the U.S. and the Palestinians). Defense Ministry sources have criticized the timing of the decision to build the homes in East Jerusalem, on the grounds that it is damaging. They seem to have forgotten, however, that a day before Defense Minister Ehud Barak had approved the construction of 110 housing units in Beitar Illit, a settlement for the ultra-Orthodox sandwiched between Bethlehem and Jerusalem.

So what is Israel actually trying to achieve? Basically, nothing. There is a superficial peace process which is going nowhere but eases international pressure on Israel to reach a deal with the Palestinians.

Netanyahu prides himself on his decades-long relationship with Biden, but managed to destroy it Tuesday night when Israel spat in the vice president's face. Barak and Netanyahu's grave explanations, that they "didn't know," "didn't hear," didn't see" each time a new plan is approved for construction, (or on the flip side, demolition) in East Jerusalem - see Sheikh Jarrah, Silwan and more - are dwarfed by the current embarrassment caused to the American administration.

In essence, Israel continues to prove Henry Kissinger's pithy dictum: "Israel has no foreign policy, it has only a domestic policy." On Tuesday, it was Interior Minister Eli Yishai who used the construction decision as a means of bolstering his own standing within Shas, coming as it did several days after Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat sought to prove that he is the boss and came close to destroying dozens of Palestinian homes in Silwan.

In general, the decision-making body in Israel regarding building over the Green Line has become deliberately destructive, and adopted a policy of "ya'ani" (Arabic slang for something which only gives an appearance of reality, a kind of "as if"). Former minister and current Kadima MK Avi Dichter likes to say that the Palestinian culture is a "ya'ani" culture, and tells tales of his time as head of the Shin Bet security service, when it was "as if" the PA was working to fight terror, and "as if" it were arresting suspects in terror attacks. Sadly, however, the Israeli government has "ya'ani" decided to freeze settlement construction, and "ya'ani" is seeking a permanent status agreement. The government has separately approved construction over the Green Line for schools, public buildings, 3,600 housing units, 110 housing units, 1,600 housing units, a synagogue and more.

In everything connected to the settlers and settlements, the government has a "ya'ani" policy. Enforcement of the law in the territories is "ya'ani," except when it comes to transforming the West Bank into a Garden of Eden for settler law-breakers. The hilltop youth can set fire to mosques, fields, homes and cars, beat up Palestinian farmers and damage property and people, all thanks to the "ya'ani" policy of the Israeli government.

Posted by Avi Issacharoff on March 10, 2010

Previous MESS Report posts:

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  • PA holds olive branch in one hand, stone in the other
  • As the West woos Syria, Assad aligns himself with Iran
  • Exclusive: Hamas leader quits Shalit talks over internal feud
  • The almost unbelievable story of Israel's spy in Hamas
  • When Palestinians keep Israelis safe
  • Who's afraid of Israeli far-rightists?
  • Israel and Palestinians pass Jericho test
  • Media failed in Dubai hit, not Mossad
  • Iran in the cross-hairs