Did Anyone Say Freeze?

One can safely assume the U.S. consulate in Jerusalem, which apprises the White House of any new Israeli construction in the West Bank, relayed information about Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's decision earlier this week to okay a new neighborhood in the settlement of Givat Zeev, adjacent to Jerusalem.

The U.S. does not need Peace Now to find out about ongoing building in "legal" settlements such as Neve Daniel and Alon Shvut or new trailers placed in Kochav Hashachar and Itzhar; nor is it unaware of the construction on Palestinian-owned land at illegal ones.

Housing Minister Ze'ev Boim Sunday told Israeli media: "We never promised a freeze on all construction in the West Bank." There is little doubt Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni ever tried such a shenanigan on her friend Condoleezza Rice. The road map specifically calls for a halt on all West Bank construction in settlements, including so-called "natural growth."

As far as the U.S. is concerned, there is no difference between Givat Ze'ev in the West Bank or Har Homa in East Jerusalem or the spate of digs that have sprung up around the "holy basin" area in Jerusalem's Old City.

The road map, which will turn five years old next month, requires Israel to remove illegal outposts set up since March 2001. Sharon received a deferral from U.S. President George Bush for the outpost probe to be compiled, a report that was handed in three years ago and ignored. Rice must be tired of explaining to Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas, who is fighting Hamas religious fanatics at home, that Shas spiritual leader Rabbi Ovadia Yosef has forbidden Olmert from touching the settlers.