My new piece at The American Prospect is part II of the explanation of how Netanyahu would like to sell continued settlement growth to Barack Obama. Part I is below. Despite Bibi’s rep as a salesman, Obama isn’t buying, as he made clear today in Cairo.
It’s Benjamin Netanyahu’s fault. Because of his insistence on allowing for “natural growth” of West Bank settlements, I decided to go real-estate shopping. I called Amana, the settlement-building organization, and said I was interested in homes in Binyamin, the name used by settlers and Israeli officialdom for the piece of the West Bank directly north of Jerusalem.
The sales rep was so helpful I could hear her smile. At Shilo, a 30-year-old settlement north of Ramallah, construction has recently begun on a new development. For about $160,000, she said, I could get a 1,200-square-foot-house. To American ears, that sounds small, but for a Jerusalem apartment-dweller, it would be a step up. Besides, that’s a starter home; I could add a second floor now or later, she said.
At Eli, just up the road from Shilo,, she offered homes in the center of the settlement, and in outlying “neighborhoods.” In Hayovel, for instance, she had a house for $115,000, with a completed first floor and the outer shell for the second floor. She didn’t mention that the “neighborhood” of Hayovel is an illegal outpost, built partly on private Palestinian land. She offered me a similar house at a settlement called Ma’aleh Mikhmash. I thanked her, and said I’d talk to my wife.
Ma’aleh Mikhmash happens to be where Knesset Member Otniel Schneller lives. Schneller, a former settlement leader, braved the criticism of the right to join the centrist Kadima party. But at a recent meeting of Kadima’s Knesset delegation, he reportedlyattacked President Obama’s insistence a full freeze on settlement building with no exceptions for “natural growth.”
The U.S. demand was “immoral,” Schneller said. He refused to agree to what he termed “an edict forbidding my daughters to give birth to my grandchildren.” And Schneller belongs to a party that refused to join Netanyahu’s coalition.. Members of Netanyahu’s cabinet have been more caustic. Science Minister Daniel Hershkowitz saidthat Obama’s demand was akin to “Pharaoh’s demand that all firstborn sons be thrown into the Nile River.”
To call this nonsense would be too forgiving. It is one part of the multi-layered lie about “natural growth” of settlements.
Read the rest at The American Prospect, and come back to SoJo to comment.