Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Right decision but Bad timing - PM demanded no surprises from Minister Yishai during Biden visit

(Ynet).US Vice President Joe Biden left Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu "hanging" for no less than an hour and a half, as the latter, along with his wife Sara, were waiting for him at the dinner table.

The sole explanation for such extreme tardiness in American diplomacy is that it was an expression of discontent over the Ministry of Interior's approval of 1,600 new housing units in disputed east Jerusalem earlier Tuesday – and the harsh condemnation that followed.

The embarrassment proved even bigger, as the prime minister was not informed of the decision. Ynet learned Tuesday evening that although Interior Minister Eli Yishai's claimed the decision's timing was coincidental, Netanyahu requested to be informed about construction permits in Jerusalem and the West Bank on several occasions in the past.

Despite Netanyahu's repeated requests, he was not updated vis-à-vis the latest plan, and the government was unable to avoid a last minute rift with the Palestinian Authority, just before renewing negotiations.

After several past incidents relating to construction in Jerusalem and the West Bank, the prime minister instructed the ministers supervising construction in "sensitive areas" to remain alert and avoid political embarrassments that could severely damage future relations with the US and the Palestinians.

Netanyahu asked Yishai and Housing and Construction Minister Ariel Atias to be involved in decision making, in order to prevent "surprises".

The prime minister assured the US vice president that the timing was coincidental, and was not meant to impede the political process with the Palestinians. "The prime minister is not ashamed of the construction in Jerusalem," said a source close to Netanyahu.