Russia starts large-scale war games...
Keep an eye on Washington, D.C. today. See if any calamity breaks out as Mitchell tries to persuade Barak to halt settlement construction.
Israel approves 50 new settler homes in West Bank...
Israelis Debate Settlements as Barak Heads to New York
Posted June 29, 2009
Defense Minister Ehud Barak is bringing a plan for a compromise on settlements that he will present Middle East Envoy George Mitchell ths week.
Merav David in Ma'arvi reports:
Defense Minister Ehud Barak will leave this afternoon for the US, where he is scheduled to meet tomorrow with US envoy to the Middle East George Mitchell.
Barak plans to present to Mitchell a broad plan, and to try to urge the Americans to expand the picture and not only to deal with the settlements, since such an approach could lead to a blowup and deadlock.
Barak is supposed to outline for Mitchell a number of principles for regional peace, as he and President Shimon Peres have coordinated in a long series of meetings in the past few months. If you go for a broad plan for a comprehensive arrangement in the region, you will find a real partner in the Israeli government, Barak will say. If you try to focus only on the settlements, the situation will only worsen.
With regard to settlements, Barak will propose a combined plan, which will include an Israeli commitment not to build new settlements, not to confiscate additional lands, not to build new neighborhoods, not to build anything outside the existing boundaries and to remove illegal settlement outposts within a number of weeks to months.
In exchange for all this, Israel will try to secure consent from the US for the completion of housing units that are already under construction, construction of public institutions, mainly education and health [institutions] in existing settlements, and forming an Israeli-American committee that will approve high-rise construction for natural growth purposes only in places where it is proven to be vital.
Meanwhile, members of the Knesset speak out against a settlement freeze in anticipation of Barak's meeting with Mitchell.
Matti Tuchfeld in Israel Hayom:
"Israel is fed up hearing interminable statements from top American administration officials as if stopping the settlements were the be all and end all," said a high-ranking official yesterday who is at this time preparing the meeting between Defense Minister Ehud Barak and special envoy to the Middle East George Mitchell, which will take place tomorrow. He said, "Israel will demand that any compromise on the subject be only in the broader framework of an overall regional plan, and after the principles as presented by the prime minister at Bar Ilan are accepted."
Officials involved in preparing the visit also said, "The Americans will hear firm words regarding the possibility of freezing construction in the settlements. Israel will only be willing to hear about a freeze if this is a temporary freeze, after which an explicit statement is made about continuing construction in the settlement blocs."
The defense minister related yesterday to the Yedioth Ahronoth headline saying that he planned to raise a proposal to Mitchell for freezing settlements for three months and said, "The matter has not yet been worked out. These things are still in the early stages." Barak also said, "Relations and understandings with the US are very important to Israel."
At a meeting of Likud ministers, Netanyahu said that there would be no Israeli proposal for freezing construction for a few months.
Settlers also oppose a settlement freeze, and vow to make any compromise difficult to enforce.
Zvi Singer and Itamar Eichner in Yedioth Ahronoth:
Members of the National Union faction toured settlement outposts in the Etzion Bloc and Judea yesterday, and called upon the residents to prepare for a construction boom and doubling the number of residents. The tour was conducted in response to Defense Minister Ehud Barak's proposal for a temporary construction freeze, as reported yesterday by Yedioth Ahronoth.
In the course of the tour, MK Aryeh Eldad commented on proposals to freeze construction, and said: "It is impossible to understand the silence of the Land of Israel loyalists in the Likud and other parts of the coalition, who applauded Netanyahu's 'Zionist speech' at Bar Ilan-and did not understand that whoever agrees to establish an Arab state in the Land of Israel necessarily also gives up the right of Jews to live and build in it."
Committee of Samaria Settlers Chairman Benny Katzover said during thetour, "we will find sites and locations for ourselves in order to continue construction-and I hope we will receive the support of Netanyahu's fellow party members."