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Israel Apologizes to Vice Pres. Biden

–updated–

Having been removed in favor of Israeli nationalist Jews, members of the Palestinian Ghawi family have been sheltering this winter in a tent on the sidewalk opposite their home of more than five decades in the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Sheikh Jarrah. Other people, including many Israelis, have been taking part in a weekly protest to support the Ghawis, a Palestinian family. [...] – Jerusalem Journal: An Eviction Stirs Old Ghosts in a Contested City

For those who want to see a peaceful resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the eviction of the Ghawis has touched on two sensitive nerves: the fate of East Jerusalem, where Israel and the Palestinians vie for control, and the abiding grievances of Palestinian refugees from the 1948 war.

The Obama administration should take notice. This is what happens when you display unambiguous toughness, especially with countries and on issues where only a steel spine is respected. From the UK Guardian:

[...] Earlier an Israeli cabinet minister apologised for the timing of the settlement announcement but not for its substance. “This should not have happened during a visit by the US vice-president,” the welfare minister, Isaac Herzog, told Army Radio. “This is a real embarrassment and now we have to express our apologies for this serious blunder.”

Aides to the Israeli prime minister, Binyamin Netanyahu said he had been blindsided by the project’s announcement by the interior ministry, run by Shas, an ultra-orthodox nationalist party that is a key member of his governing coalition.

The approval of the plan cast a cloud over Biden’s visit, just hours after he pledged strong support for the Israeli government. …

Poor Bibi, he was “blindsided.” …and we’re also to believe that Mr. Netanyahu appearing with pro-settlement, right-wing pastor Rev. Hagee was a coincidence. More likely the Israeli Prime Minister underestimated what Mr. Biden would tolerate considering his unimpeachable hawk stance on Israel, as well as his old school belief that you never humiliate the United States of American when their top diplomat, other than the President, comes to make peace.

Bidens’ statement yesterday denounced the settlement announcement in East Jerusalem. Mr. Biden continued this them today standing next to Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas.

Standing alongside the Palestinian president, Mahmoud Abbas, Biden urged both sides to not to act in a way “that inflame tensions or prejudice the outcome of talks”.

“It’s incumbent on both parties to build an atmosphere of support for negotiations and not to complicate them,” he said.

Abbas said Israel’s continued expansion of settlements, especially in Jerusalem, threatened the negotiations before they got off the ground.

“We call on Israel to cancel these decisions,” Abbas said. “I call on the Israeli government not to lose a chance to make peace. I call on them to halt settlement building and to stop imposing facts on the ground, and to give the efforts of the Obama administration and Senator Mitchell the chance to succeed.”

Point to Vice President Biden, as well as Pres. Obama, for knowing what Biden’s worth would be when he picked him for vice president in the first place and for reiterating the Administration’s policy on Israeli settlements, which is in everyone’s best interest.

But just to be clear, Israel’s apology does not wipe away the embarrassment or purpose of the timing of the East Jerusalem settlement building announcement, which no one should believe was an accident.

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