Fun Facts to Ruin Your Day

  • Spending on Jewish settlements in the West Bank over the past four decades totaled nearly 17.4 billion dollars
  • Of the money spent on constructing the 128 settlements in the occupied Palestinian territory — excluding annexed Arab east Jerusalem — 78 percent, or 13.7 billion dollars, was for settler homes: 32,711 apartments, 22,997 houses and 5,534 caravans.
  • More than 1.1 billion dollars went towards building public institutions: 321 sports facilities, 271 synagogues and 96 ritual baths.
  • Between 2004 and 2008, 6,657 new settlement buildings came up, according to the Tel Aviv-based researchers, who used satellite imagery to map settlement structures in the West Bank.
  • Of those, 4,379 were apartments, representing an increase of 15.46 percent, and 1,526 were single family houses, a 7.11 percent increase.

These figures come from the Palestine Center.  They become even more depressing when the optimist of a few days ago slowly realizes that the housing row between the US and Israel is unlikely to result in any freeze in East Jerusalem construction. Indeed, during his AIPAC speech on Monday, Netanyahu said that Jerusalem was not a settlement, but the capital of Israel and that construction will not stop there.  Settler numbers are on the rise and could triple to 1 million in the near future.

[tweetmeme] Damage control in Washington and Tel Aviv started to band-aid the problems between the countries recently.  Clinton and Obama both met with Netanyahu when he was in Washington.  Before the Clinton meeting, Netanyahu sent the State Department a letter of concessions for peace – certainly a good sign.  Yet immediately before meeting with Obama, Israel announced the construction of 20 more apartments in East Jerusalem.

There are theories that Obama wants to undermine the Netanyahu coalition in Tel Aviv and force the Israeli PM to reform his government, dropping his far-right allies and adding centrist parties.  Yet, with the construction announcement during Biden’s visit and now the announcement before meeting Obama, it seems that perhaps some of Netanyahu’s allies in Israel are trying to undermine the PM.  A second ill-timed construction announcement has now preempted meetings with the VP of the US and the President.  At some point, the US will need to come down on Israel.

Logic shows that the Israeli government is quickly painting itself into a corner.  Obama has better poll numbers in Israel than Netanyahu, while official Israeli policy seems to be to openly defy the US and flaunt it.  Of course, defiance of the US by foreign governments is not unusual, but to receive such large amounts of annual aid and openly embarrass the VP and President is borderline insanity.

Furthermore, if Netanyahu is forced to backtrack on the construction issue (the EU demanded an East Jerusalem freeze and the US is clearly opposed to construction there) the PM will certainly lose support within his conservative government coalition.  If the current coalition seems ready to break, it would behoove Netanyahu to reach out to Kadima, something it already did in December (though the effort obviously failed).

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