On October 1, the Israeli Peace Now movement broke the news that on the eve of Rosh Hashana, when nobody was paying attention, the Netanyahu government went ahead with final approval of a plan for construction of a new settlement in East Jerusalem – Givat Hamatos. To understand why this plan is so significant and problematic, see this analysis from Peace Now. For further dismantling of the excuses offered by Netanyahu and other settlement apologists after news of the approval came out, see this analysis from Danny Seidemann.
The news of this new settlement approval – which came on the heels of the takeover of 7 new properties by settlers in Silwan – cast a pall over Netayahu’s subsequent meeting in Washington, DC with President Obama. In the wake of that meeting, and following statements from the Obama Administration condemning the new settlement approval, Netanyahu and his fellow settlement defenders/apologists apparently decided that their best defense would be to go on offense – against Peace Now.
What has followed since has been a series of scurrilous attacks on Peace Now from Israeli political figures and right-wing pundits (Israeli and American). Read APN’s response to those attacks: A Lack of National Responsibility. What has also followed has been a number of serious articles taking Netanyahu and his fellow travelers to task for attacking Peace Now for doing its job, rather than taking responsibility for pro-settlement policies that are on every level detrimental to Israel’s own interests.
Below is a round-up of articles and statements related to this shameful display by Prime Minister Netanyahu and his fellow settlement defenders/supporters, as well as major articles and statements calling Netanyahu and his fellow travelers out for their cynical and transparent efforts to blame the messenger, when it is their own pro-settlement policies – not Peace Now’s reporting – that are the real issue.
Americans for Peace Now blog post 10/7: "Un-American" ?
Peace Now press release 10/1: Plan for Givat Hamatos Approved
Americans for Peace Now press release 10/1: APN to Obama: Tell Netanyahu to Block Plans for New East Jerusalem Settlement
APN/moveon.org petition: U.S. Support for Israel Must Stop at the Green Line
Washington Post 10/1: White House: Israel faces estrangement from allies if settlement building proceeds
The housing development has been in planning for years but was on hold until last week, when the government ran a public notice that allows it to accept tenders and begin construction. The notice drew no attention, however, until the Israeli advocacy group Peace Now released a statement about it shortly before Obama and Netanyahu met.
Jerusalem Post 10/2: Caught off guard, White House angered at timing of Jerusalem housing announcement
The Jerusalem Municipality approved the project in December 2012, but waited almost two years - until the date of the bilateral meeting - to place news of the approval in a local Israeli paper, according to Peace Now, an organization opposed to Israel's presence beyond its 1967 borders.
The housing units, which have been slated for construction since 2012 in the neighbourhood of Givat Hamatos, were given final approval last week, according to the Peace Now watchdog.
New York Times Editorial 10/2: Mr. Netanyahu’s Strange Course
Mr. Netanyahu blamed the Israeli group, Peace Now, for trying to sabotage the White House meeting with Mr. Obama by calling attention to an official notice from the Israeli government approving the housing project. But the problem is not the disclosure but the fact of the project itself.
JTA 10/2: Bibi, Peace Now and doing vs. saying
That Jerusalem building approval blow-up between the Netanyahu and Obama governments? Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and pro-Israel media watchdogs like Honest Reporting are pressing the storyline that Peace Now is at fault. Which is kind of like blaming routers for the bad news you posted on the Internet… We don’t know when Peace Now or Terrestrial Jerusalem saw the ad, exactly, and press releases on Erev Rosh Hashanah are more than rare, not just because you won’t get press, but because like almost everyone else in the country, you’re off to holiday dinner — which may have been the point. The Interior Ministry notice is the Israeli equivalent of one of Washington’s notorious Friday night dumps. Given the three-day holiday — Rosh Hashanah and then Shabbat — there were two working days between the Interior Ministry ad and Netanyahu rolling onto the White House grounds. It is the government that made this announcement on the eve of Netanyahu’s visit. Peace Now and Terrestrial Jerusalem simply noticed, and repeated.
Haaretz 10/2: Epic fail for Netanyahu's hopes of keeping U.S. trip low-key (Barak Ravid)
Netanyahu came to the press briefing with a white sheet of paper bearing two sentences printed in an especially large font. This was his message to Peace Now. Two hours before his meeting with Obama, Peace Now published a statement about the Jerusalem municipality’s advancing construction plans in East Jerusalem. Reading from the page, Netanyahu did not mention the organization by name, but accused it of lacking national responsibility and of deliberately trying to sabotage his meeting with Obama. It is not clear what Netanyahu was complaining about. Peace Now was merely doing its job – challenging the government by means of a public discourse. Just as rightist groups pressured Netanyahu not to free Palestinian prisoners, or to free the spy Jonathan Pollard. Netanyahu has only himself to blame. Even after five years as prime minister and countless similar crises with the American administration, he is still surprised every time by the ads published by planning commissions – at the worst possible time – about settlements. If he cannot call the relevant ministries or Jerusalem municipality to order, he shouldn’t gripe about Peace Now…
Jewish Political Updates 10/6: Bibi’s Visit Soothes His Demographic (Shai Frankel)
…Netanyahu blamed Peace Now for exaggerating what should have been a quiet continuation of removing the incentive and capacity for any sustainable Palestinian state. But, just days earlier, the Prime Minister had announced a major new expansion of settlements in the West Bank (not even within the dramatically enlarged boundaries of Jerusalem), specifically as retaliation for the kidnapping and murder by Hamas of three Israeli teenagers last spring.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu Obama-Netanyahu Talks Clouded as U.S. Slams Settlements (Bloomberg, 10/2)
‘The disclosure by Peace Now, which monitors settlement growth, “shows a lack of national responsibility to do something like this,’ Netanyahu said. ‘This was publicized now only in order to damage the meeting’ with Obama, he said.
Prime Minister Netanyahu: East Jerusalem building plan widens Israel-US rift (Globes 10/2)
Netanyahu said that he was not prepared to accept the criticism. He bitterly condemned those who revealed the plan on the eve of his US visit (Peace Now), without specifying the names of any organization that he was accusing of ‘lack of national responsibility’. In response, Americans for Peace Now spokesman Ori Nir told ‘Globes’ that Netanyahu was shooting the messenger and that it was the Prime Minister who was showing national irresponsibility in approving such a sensitive plan, at such a sensitive time, on the eve of his meeting with Obama.
Israeli MK Katz: Israeli Minister: Peace Now ‘Poisoning the Atmosphere’ With New Settlements Claim (The Algemeiner, 10/2)
…Peace Now, a fringe group that gets most of its funding from foreign sources, leaked [details of the decision] – on the day of the Prime Minister’s meeting with the President of the United States – in order to poison the atmosphere. Many places would have shunned them, but here, we roll out the red carpet...
Israeli MKs Elkin and Akunis, and Shas leader Deri: Edelstein: While Islamic State slaughters, West is focused on building in Jerusalem (Jerusalem Post 10/2)
…Meanwhile, Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee chairman Ze’ev Elkin (Likud) accused Peace Now of trying to create a wedge between Israel and the US and told Israel Radio the Knesset will have to find ways to deal with such organizations….Deputy Minister for Liaison with the Knesset Ofir Akunis said that Peace Now’s ‘informing’ on construction in Jerusalem won’t change anything...’America shouldn’t be the spokesperson for Peace Now. The Jewish people prayed for generations not to forget Jerusalem. Shas will completely back the government on the topic of Jerusalem,’ [Shas leader Arye] Deri stated.
Honest Reporting 10/2: “Settlement Crisis” Upstages Summit
“Prime Minister Netanyahu visited President Obama to discuss Mideast peace, Iran, and ISIS. Once again, the summit was upstaged by “settlement crisis” manufactured by Peace Now (more on that below) over a week-old tender of 2,610 Israeli housing units in eastern Jerusalem.” Also see: Honest Reporting 10/2: How to Create a “Settlement Crisis”
Elliot Abrams at Israel Hayom 10/3: Let's get back in the box
Earl Cox (Right-wing evangelical pundit) 10/5: Ultra-left Liberal “Peace Now," Obama and Livni Adding to Israel’s Woes
Seth Frantzen in the Jerusalem Post 10/5: How Israel was Givat Hamatoasted by ‘peace’ groups (“The truth behind the Givat Hamatos scandal is that it was produced by the left-wing group Peace Now.”)
Shmuel Rosner at the Jewish Journal 10/6: Bibi vs. Peace Now: a potentially dangerous moment