Don’t believe Benjamin Netanyahu for one moment when he says he “never knew.” The Jerusalem planning committee is only too aware of what the bosses want, and the government has decided to step up construction in greater Jerusalem. Dispossession and taking possession, kicking out and moving in – that’s what it’s all about.
Over the years, a streamlined and generously lubricated machine has evolved, one that makes it possible to take solace in the building of Jerusalem (in the phrase used to console mourners) and to take pride – but also to take cover – behind a facade of disingenuousness and disowning. Yesterday, it was convenient to disown.
No pretext is more dismal than “bad timing.” Ehud Barak immediately put out a press release about the “harmful timing of the publication.” As if there were a proper time for provocations. If the announcement of the 1,600 planned housing units had come before Joe Biden’s trip, they would have said it was aimed at sabotaging the visit, and if it happened after he left, they would have said Biden himself was in on the secret.
But with Barak, that willing slave-minister of Netanyahu’s, everything’s cool, but if only they had kept that call for bids confidential, if only they built apartments in some dark secluded hideaway, like the Western Wall tunnel.
Don’t believe for a moment that they never knew: The chaos works like clockwork. The detonation mechanism is activated remotely and a safety range is carefully observed. It will always be possible to make procedural claims – “it’s a technical matter” or “the political echelon wasn’t involved” or “the timing was purely coincidental” or “three years of deliberations happened to end now.” What judge hearing a case would accept “I didn’t know” as a mitigating circumstance?
This is one visit Joe Biden will not quickly forget. First he was compelled to sit through 25 minutes of an annoying speech in his honor by our president. Shimon Peres really believes that he is the destination for pilgrims from all over the world who drink in his musings and are intoxicated by his vision.
Later, Biden was given a certificate memorializing his mother, but the glass broke. Once again, Bibi didn’t pay attention, leaned on it and shattered it. No fear, his speeches have always diverted attention from such mishaps. And finally, to add a finishing touch of infuriating disgrace, the Haredi neighborhood Ramat Shlomo was dumped on the vice-presidential head.
Truth be told, the Obama administration just about asked for this slap. In Jerusalem, the lesson has been learned that the White House doesn’t fulfill its obligations – it just goes through the motions by issuing insincere rebukes. And now, they’ll begin the “proximity talks” – Orwellian for distance, which is greater than it’s been in 20 years.
If I were Rahm Emanuel, I wouldn’t advise Barack Obama to follow in his Veep’s footsteps and visit Israel soon. It’s safe to predict that on the day he’s addressing the Knesset, they’ll tell him work has begun on the Temple Mount.
The first Temple was that of Solomon the Wise, the Second was that of Ezra the Scribe, and the Third of Netanyahu and Eli Yishai. Let the Temple be built, and the home of the nation will be laid waste.
YOSSI SARID writes for Ha’aretz, where this column originally appeared.