Israel delivers another slap at Obama, approves construction of 1,800 homes in West Bank

November 16, 2010


— Last week witnessed another davka moment in the Israeli government’s relationship with the Obama White House.

Davka is Israeli slang for “in your face.” And nothing could be more in-your-face than the announcement that Israeli authorities had approved the building of more than 1,800 new homes in Jewish settlements on the West Bank and in suburbs of Jerusalem beyond Israel’s 1967 borders — especially since Vice President Joe Biden had just met Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin “Bibi” Netanyahu and asked him to renew a freeze on settlement-building.

Such a freeze is essential to the revival of peace talks with the Palestinians, a top priority for President Obama. Yet the Israeli response to the White House request was — pow!

What makes this move even more insulting is that Israeli officials did the same thing to Biden in March, announcing the building of 1,500 units in the West Bank as he arrived in Jerusalem. The White House was justifiably furious, and the Israelis pledged to avoid such “surprises” in the future.

Last week, Biden told Bibi the earlier flap was forgotten and pledged that ties between the United States and Israel are “literally unbreakable.” The Netanyahu government rewarded him with another poke in the eye.

The expansion of West Bank settlements is far more disturbing than it might appear to a casual observer. It has reached the point where it almost rules out the possibility of establishing a Palestinian state.

Driving around the West Bank with Hagit Ofran, who monitors settlement building for the Israeli organization Peace Now, I could see tractors leveling ground in several settlements and earthmoving equipment digging foundations. In Ariel, a controversial settlement town where 800 new units will be constructed, a whole hillside had been terraced to make way for apartment buildings and townhouses. The town has a university and a new theater, and is among the settlements the government insists it will keep.

Yet Ariel points eastward like a long finger across the midriff of Samaria, the northern half of the West Bank. A fistful of smaller settlements, along with several illegal outposts — nascent settlements that violate Israeli law but are almost never disbanded — extends westward from the hills overlooking the Jordan Valley. The finger and the fist nearly touch, effectively dividing Samaria in half.

The impact here, as elsewhere in the dry hills and valleys of the West Bank, is to divide the land into cantons; Palestinian towns and villages are cut off from each other by Jewish settlements, checkpoints, and special settler roads.

The Israeli government claims that settlements are not obstacles to talks and can be dismantled if there is an accord. It notes that Jewish settlements were removed from Sinai and Gaza.

But visit the West Bank and you see huge differences between those examples and the vast settlement enterprise here. More than 300,000 Jewish settlers live in communities built on a grid intended to ensure permanent control of large chunks of territory.

Similarly, the expansion of a belt of suburbs around Jerusalem is meant to permanently separate the Arab neighborhoods of East Jerusalem from their Palestinian hinterland. Yet there is no chance for a two-state solution unless Jerusalem becomes the capital of both states.

So it is sophistry to assert, as Netanyahu’s office has done, that there is no connection between the peace process and Jerusalem. Nor are West Bank settlements a “marginal issue,” as the prime minister insists.

Netanyahu’s cavalier treatment of his closest ally is doubly offensive because Obama has gone out of his way to assure him of America’s commitment to Israel’s security in the short and long term. The White House even made a grossly overgenerous offer of diplomatic and military benefits if Israel would extend the settlement freeze by only 60 days (too short a time to make a difference).

There is no excuse for Bibi’s negative response. If far-right members of his political coalition balk over a settlement freeze, the center-right Kadima party is ready to join his government. And a settlement freeze would test the Palestinians’ readiness to deal.

The disrespect the Israeli government has shown Obama not only undercuts the slim chances for talks, but also weakens the image of the United States throughout the Middle East. This harms Jerusalem as well as Washington.

Israel’s davka behavior toward the Obama White House has got to stop.

— Trudy Rubin is a columnist and editorial-board member for the Philadelphia Inquirer. trubin@phillynews.com


jmadison 7 years, 6 months ago

While in Indonesia, President Obama praised the religious tolerance of Indonesia. Indonesia does not allow Israelis to enter Indonesia, nor is Judaism on the approved religions list enumerated by the Indonesian government.

Flap Doodle 7 years, 6 months ago

You can substitute reality for Israel in the headline and use it for the next couple of years....

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 7 years, 6 months ago

Just as the hard right in this country is adamant that the US be the (better-armed) mirror image of Al Qaeda, the hard right of Israel insists on being the (better-armed) mirror image of Hamas.

There will be no peace in Palestine/Israel until the US cuts off all military aid to Israel.

fu7il3 7 years, 6 months ago

There will be no peace in Palestine/Israel period. That was a mess before the United States was even a country. There is no fixing it. Neither side is willing to give up what would be necessary to accomplish it.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 7 years, 6 months ago

" That was a mess before the United States was even a country."

I'm not sure what you mean by this, but there was a long period of time in which Jews lived peacefully alongside Muslims. As a matter of fact, when Isabel and Ferdinand defeated the (muslim) Moors in Spain in the 15th century, one of the first things they did was to kick the rather large Jewish population out of Spain if they refused to convert to Catholicism. Most of them went to live in other Muslim regions. (and the royal family got all their property) So 700 years of relatively tolerant Muslim rule in Spain was replaced by the Spanish Inquisition with its torture chambers and gallows for all those who failed to convert to the proper form of Christianity.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 7 years, 6 months ago

There were also Muslims who, at great risk to themselves, saved Jews from the Germans.

But you like to hate Muslims, so I'm sure all you know about are the Muslims who killed Jews while under the hire of Nazis. But there were lots of other non-Germans who did the same thing. Should we pay the Israelis to bomb their descendants, too?

cato_the_elder 7 years, 6 months ago

Reading past the headline, how many slaps has Obama delivered to Israel? Obama is the most anti-Israel U.S. president ever to hold the office since Israel was founded in 1947. His far-left base despises Israel and would be perfectly pleased were it to be overrun and destroyed by its enemies. The only reason Obama and lap-dog Biden pay any lip service to Israel at all is the fact that many American voters of the Jewish faith are Democrats. Those folks, especially if they support Israel, need to wake up - if you cherish and support Israel's right to exist and you voted for Obama, you wasted your vote.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 7 years, 6 months ago

While many on the left, including myself, certainly recognize the stupidity of Europeans in thinking that in creating Israel they could somehow solve their "Jewish Problem" merely by pushing it off on the Palestinians, nearly everyone I know on the left recognizes that Israel is there to stay. But that doesn't mean that the ongoing injustice to the Palestinians in the creation of Israel can be resolved simply by arming the Israelis to the teeth so they can create their own Apartheid and concentration camps, allowing them to kill and imprison Palestinians with impunity.

Israel is here to stay. And so are their Palestinians neighbors. They need to learn to live with each other, but the extreme hatred of the right towards Palestinians (and all Arabs/Muslims) is the primary hurdle to making progress in that direction.

jafs 7 years, 6 months ago

To be fair, I think it's extremists on both sides of the conflict that are making a peaceful solution impossible.

Most of those in the middle, Palestinian and Israeli, could almost certainly solve the problem if they were allowed to do so.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 7 years, 6 months ago

I agree, but Israeli extremists gets $3 billion in US taxpayer funds every year to finance their extremist agenda. Hamas gets some support from outside, but mostly operate on a "martyr" model that that their shoestring budget allows-- an occasional suicide bomber and lots of small missiles that usually don't do much damage.

Abdu Omar 7 years, 6 months ago

It was the extremists on the Israeli part that forced them into power in the 40's with the healp of anit-german groups. Hamas never has attacked the USA and are not part of al Qaeda. And the latter are our enemies because we arm Israel against the Palestinians. If we stopped doing that, the war there would turn to being more fair- that is what would stop it. IF the Israelis truly want a Jewish state that follows the precepts of true Judaismm they wouldn't fight their way into a place they are unwanted. There are other ways and other places in the world that would have been more inviting.

jafs 7 years, 6 months ago


But you have to also remember WWII and the Holocaust, where many nations knew that Jews were being exterminated and did nothing.

How many of these nations offered the Jewish people a place to create their own nation?

notajayhawk 7 years, 6 months ago

"Last week, Biden told Bibi the earlier flap was forgotten and pledged that ties between the United States and Israel are “literally unbreakable.” The Netanyahu government rewarded him with another poke in the eye."

So the ties are "literally unbreakable" - as long as the Israelis do what the White House wants them to do, anyway.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 7 years, 6 months ago

"as long as the Israelis do what the White House wants them to do, anyway."

So, nota, do you think that the $3 billion in weaponry that US taxpayers provide for Israel every year should have any strings attached? Or do you just thing that they only strings attached should be a promise to murder and imprison thousands of Palestinians, most of them civilians?

verity 7 years, 6 months ago

DIdn't you mean as long as the U.S. does what the Israelis want us to do? The Israelis have been jerking our strings for as long as I can remember and we keep putting up with it. It's time we make some demands in turn for our financial and military support.

We need to demand that they stop building settlements now.

And to those who are accusing people of hating Israel because they think Israel should be accountable for what they do---isn't that what you people on the right are always talking about---accountability? Accusing anybody who doesn't agree completely with what Israel is doing of hating them is just stupidity and laziness. You've obviously got nothing else.

There are bad actors on both sides of this conflict, but Israel is the one with the power, not the Palestinians.

Flap Doodle 7 years, 6 months ago

They're letting Biden talk to foreign leaders again? No good will come of that.

George Lippencott 7 years, 6 months ago

Build baby build. When those who hate us are ready to come to the table it will be time to talk about stopping. You don't demand all the goodies as the price to talk about more demands for goodies. Nobody out their has a superior claim to anything.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 7 years, 6 months ago

"You don't demand all the goodies as the price to talk about more demands for goodies."

The only goodies they are demanding are the ones Israel has been stealing from them.

jafs 7 years, 6 months ago

It's hard to take Israel seriously about wanting a just solution if they continue to build massive settlements in disputed territory.

George Lippencott 7 years, 6 months ago

jafs: That is part of the negotiations. If you do not want more land locked up get your butt to the table and negotiate

Bozo - you and I will agree to disagree. They took nothing from anybody (except the Brits)

jafs 7 years, 6 months ago

If the territory is in dispute, then the correct action for both sides would be to not build anything there until the negotiations have been completed.

How likely do you think it is that Israel will give back land on which it has built settlements?

For Israel to continue grabbing more and more land is an obvious sign that they are not negotiating in good faith.

And the Palestinians know that's what's happening.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 7 years, 6 months ago

" They took nothing from anybody (except the Brits)"

Just because European colonial powers chose to stick their nose into it doesn't provide justification for what happened to the long-time residents of Palestine (and pre-1914, only about 2% of the inhabitants of that area were Jews.)

George Lippencott 7 years, 6 months ago


I don't think you understand the problem. As far as Israel is concerned the land is theirs by either UN mandate or right of conquest. The PLO and fellow travelers seem to forget that they three times tried to destroy Israel. How many do overs do you get??

And yes, they have already destroyed settlements when giving land back to the PLO (in some cases the PLO did it even though they had no equivalent structures for their own people. If it is necessary to build settlements to force the PLO back to the table, it is a cheap price then everlasting war.

Why do I not hear about the PLO backtracking on agreements that acknowledged the right of Israel to exist at all? How can you negotiate with people who want to annihilate you??

jafs 7 years, 6 months ago

If they don't want to negotiate, then they should stop the pretense, and we should stop helping them.

When Israel was created, it was done so without consideration for the Palestinians who lived there - it is completely understandable that they don't view Israel in a positive light. Even the founder of Israel, Ben-Gurion said "Why should they want peace? We took their land".

Extremists on both sides have fueled this conflict - Rabin had brokered a decent agreement, and was assassinated by his own right-wing extremists.

Your second paragraph is virtually not understandable - building settlements is what's preventing Palestinians from entering into the negotiations, and may end them completely.

If both sides here just want to fight, then we should let them, but perhaps we should stop sending Israel massive amounts of money in military aid.

If they want to negotiate peace and a just settlement, then we should help them do so.

The problem is that moderates on both sides want peace and justice, but extremists on both sides want to win at any cost.

George Lippencott 7 years, 6 months ago


Do THE PLO et al want peace or capitulation???

jafs 7 years, 6 months ago

Do Israeli right-wing extremists want a just solution or to win, and get rid of Palestine?

Rabin was murdered by right-wing Israeli extremists, not Palestinians.

pizzapete 7 years, 6 months ago

I don't think the Isrealis are interested in peace, why should they be? They seem to have the Palestinians well under their control at present, why would they want to compromise? A few rockets or a suicide bomber here or there are probably a worthy trade off for taking over another people's country.

George Lippencott 7 years, 6 months ago

Where did you get this notion? Who is feeding you this?? It really is a lot more complicated.

Ricky_Vaughn 7 years, 6 months ago

Why is it our responsibility to bring peace to Israel? The only way we know how to "bring peace" is to start blowing stuff up. I say we carpet bomb the entire country and start over.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 7 years, 6 months ago

Yea, Rubin is a common name in some parts of the Middle East. Well, in Israel, anyway.

Rex Russell 7 years, 6 months ago

Hmmmm. I think the historical evidence of the last 30 yys. or so shows that Isreal is not interested in a viable Palestinian state. This week included. Whenever the Palestinians are frustrated and violent in response, the Isreali state quashes them with extreme prejudice and severity. When they are quiet and reasonable, Isreal builds settlements on land that is disputed. Thus, causing more violent responses and stomping on hopes for a more peaceful settlement, ensuring more bloodshed.. These are the actions of those who hold all the cards and absolutely have the upper hand/control. As a person who has always supported the concept of a nation of Isreal, following the horrific trials and tribulations of the second world war, I have always been shocked at the level of arrogance and lack of common decency since it's inception. Here we have a people who were subjected to unspeakable accounts of human injustice, and cannont see it when they commit upon others. The creation of the Jewish state was a gift to Jews around the world and to the world itself. Except that it took land away from people who had been there for centuries. It has always seemed like there has been a complete lack of humility from the Isrealis. Much like a sense of entitlement after 2000 yrs. Much like an attitude of dismissal of giving back what was already theirs-not carving out a homeland of other peoples' property and displacing them. Until the Isreali people humbly acknowledge that they were given a gift from the world as a whole, and acknowledge that the Palestinians have a right to be there also, and the Palestinians agree that Isreal has a right to exist at all, there will be no peace. Arrogance vs. Arrogance = zero peace and progress towards a solution.

Abdu Omar 7 years, 6 months ago

How can anyone who house has been invaded by theives agree to recognise them as the lawful owners of the house? How can they just give up and let them have land that they have cultivated and sweat over for thousands of years? Their whole existence was there on that land and when usurpers coime to take it, how can they lay down and say "Here is is yours"? So when Israel was formed in 1948, the Palestinian neighbors were called it to clean out the house from the theives, but the theives came with the help of the police who kept them armed and with the help of the police, they became aggressive and took most of Palestine, little by little. The "disputed" territory belongs to the Palestinians and is not disputed by the UN and the rest of the world. Only by Americans and Israelis. Get the Israelis out of the West Bank and Jerusalem and there shall be peace. But as RRussel said above, the Israelis want it all and are not intersted in stopping until they do.

jafs 7 years, 6 months ago

There are also Palestinian extremists who want to wipe Israel off of the earth.

Extremists on both sides continually undermine efforts towards a peaceful and somewhat just resolution of this problem.

Abdu Omar 7 years, 6 months ago

There are Israeli extremists in the USA and in Israel that want to wipe the Palestinians off the face of the earth and are calling for a "Final Solution"! I wonder where they heard about that and how dare they even think about it? We must stop funding them now. They are behind the effort to get Americans to hate Muslims, to deny the right to build an International/Interreligious Community building near Ground Zero.

jafs 7 years, 6 months ago

There are also Palestinian extremists.

This problem is not created by one side, it's created by both sides.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 7 years, 6 months ago

The problem was most certainly created with the creation of the state of Israel.

But Israel is there to stay, as are the Palestinians.

Unless the violent extremists on each side can figure out how to complete the murder/suicide pact they seem to have entered into.

jafs 7 years, 6 months ago

I wonder if either side would consider moving somewhere else, if they were offered such a chance.

There seem to be many nations with a stake in how the conflict turns out, and it's a pretty small amount of land.

Why couldn't someone offer either side a different place to locate?

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 7 years, 6 months ago

Israel has been proposing that the Arabs move somewhere else for their entire existence. They've even instigated a robust ethnic cleansing campaign to encourage that proposal.

jafs 7 years, 6 months ago

I meant some other nation offering either side somewhere to relocate.

Anybody ever offer to do that?

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 7 years, 6 months ago

That'd be an exodus (pardon the term) of at least 5 million people, either way. Not sure what country would want to take that on, or how it would be funded. And each culture has an attachment to place that I think would preclude their taking any such offer.

jafs 7 years, 6 months ago

Well, we're spending an enormous amount of money on military aid to Israel each year.

All of that money could have gone towards helping them establish themselves somewhere else. And then we might be able to stop supplying them with such massive military aid, if they're living somewhere not surrounded by enemies.

But that attachment is what I was getting at - I think they are both very attached to that place, which is part of the problem.

jafs 7 years, 6 months ago

Re-reading your post, I better understand what you are saying.

You are right that the creation of Israel was unjust to the Palestinians living there at the time.

It was an understandable, but flawed, response to the Holocaust and the desperation of Jewish people to form their own homeland.

If they apologized, and tried to create a viable 2 state solution, with Jerusalem perhaps divided between the 2 countries, would you accept that?

What would be acceptable to you?

Since both Israelis and Palestinians view Jerusalem as their holy land, it seems unlikely to me that either side would willingly give it up completely.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 7 years, 6 months ago

Here's a proposal. Move the UN headquarters there and declare Jerusalem a world heritage site to be administered by the UN. Anyone living there can choose to be a citizen of any country they want.

jafs 7 years, 6 months ago


That would go over great with the Palestinians, I'm sure.

More international meddling, of the sort that caused the problem in the first place.

But I like the "out of the box" thinking.

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