A Blog by the Editor of The Middle East Journal

Putting Middle Eastern Events in Cultural and Historical Context

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Ramat Shlomo: or "In your Eye, Joe Biden!"

You could almost start to believe that the Netanyahu Government is not trying to win favor with the Obama Administration.

With US efforts to start new proximity talks between Israel and the Palestinian Authority seemingly within sight of at least limited success, and with Vice President Joe Biden visiting Israel, Israel approved 1600 new housing units in the Ramat Shlomo neighborhood of Jerusalem. Biden actually used the word "condemn" in describing the decision. Biden's mouth gets the better of him sometimes, but that's an unusually strong word for a senior US official with a foreign policy background to use against Israel. Unusually strong, but nonetheless appropriate.

Yes, Israel insists it has the right to build in all parts of Jerusalem, but the timing here looks like a blatant "in your eye, Joe" to the Vice President, and it sounds like he took it that way.

Ramat Shlomo is itself a fairly new neighborhood in north Jerusalem that lies just west of the Arab neighborhoods of Shu‘afat and Beit Hanina, not far from the Shu‘afat refugee camp. What's more, Harat Shlomo is an ultra-Orthodox (Haredi) neighborhood. It's east of the Green Line of course and not far from the East Jerusalem to Ramallah road.

Say what you will about the future of Jerusalem, this really looks like a deliberate affront to Biden. He seems to have taken it as such. It's as if, "where could we approve new construction that would be the most offensive to the US right now?"

There are a very large number of Israelis who deplore this sort of "diplomacy," of course, but it seems to be taking hold of this government to an unusual degree. I worry that someday we will see the assassination of Yitzhak Rabin in 1995 as the moment when Israel began a descent into a policy of undermining its own interests and its own security.


John said...

When one knows that one can act with impunity, one's behavior is constrained only by one's morality.

Michael Collins Dunn said...


Well said.