Netanyahu willfully engineered a confrontation with the U.S. over announced plans to build in the West Bank town of Gilo, according to Lara Friedman of Americans for Peace Now and Danny Seidemann of Ir Amin. They make a persuasive case that the plans were a deliberate provocation of the U.S., as Netanyahu had many other options if he wanted to show he was acting with restraint in East Jerusalem.
Whether or not a battle with Obama was what Bibi had in mind, Friedman and Seidemann also add something new to the conversation by pointing out the significance of the Gilo plan to the contours of Jerusalem. It turns out the planned construction of Gilo is part of a plan that includes an entirely NEW settlement:
The plan is being spun in the Israeli press as something simple and non-controversial – construction in one of the oldest Israelis settlements in East Jerusalem, one that many Israelis forget is technically a settlement at all.
This is, of course, just spin. The plan, if implemented, will allow the construction of 844 units, and these units won’t be inside the existing footprint of the settlement. Rather, they will be on the settlement’s southwestern flank, expanding Gilo in the direction of the Palestinian village of Wallajeh (a village in which a large number of the homes are fighting Israeli demolition orders). This new Gilo plan clearly dovetails with another plan to build a new settlement, called Givat Yael, which would straddle the Jerusalem border and significantly extend Israeli Jerusalem to the south, further sealing the city off from the Bethlehem area and the West Bank (and connecting it to the Etzion settlement bloc). That plan, it was reported yesterday, also appears to be suddenly gaining steam…
The Gilo plan…has important strategic implications, since the plan, [if] implemented, would impact on border options for Jerusalem under a future peace agreement.