Mere talk only -- the sort of carrying on that we might expect. What was more interesting to me was that almost immediately Kerry advised that no one should get too upset about this.
It was clear as it might be then that there had been an understanding between Kerry and Netanyahu. I can imagine Netanyahu telling Kerry that the only way he could pull off the prisoner release was if he made the right wing of his government happy by approving building. And indeed, subsequently Kerry acknowledged that Netanyahu had told him forthrightly that since there was no agreement with regard to a building freeze there would be building.
This is what he said yesterday (emphasis added):
"Let me make it clear: The policy of the United States of America with respect to all settlements is that they are illegitimate, and we oppose settlements taking place at any time, not just the time of the peace process.
But – here’s the but – that said, Prime Minister Netanyahu was completely upfront with me and with President Abbas that he would be announcing some additional building that would take place in places that will not affect the peace map, that will not have any impact on the capacity to have a peace agreement. That means that it is building within the so-called blocs in areas that many people make a presumption – obviously not some Palestinians or others – will be part of Israel in the future. He has specifically agreed not to disturb what might be the potential for peace going forward.
Now, we still believe it would be better not to be doing it, but there are realities within life in Israel that also have to be taken into account here going forward.
I note here that he says that Abbas was informed of this, and so we can assume that all the PA grandstanding is just that. What is more, that they lied when they said, as they did, that Kerry promised that there would be no building.
Altogether, I find this an interesting state of affairs. Is Kerry starting to publicly indicate impatience with Abbas?
What Kerry said here about the Israeli position represents it accurately. The prime minister's office is saying that building will take place only in blocs in Judea and Samaria or in neighborhoods in Jerusalem that we would be retaining in any negotiated agreement. The notion that our building in neighborhoods such as Gilo or Har Homa represents a threat to "the peace process" is beyond ridiculous, frankly.
Of course Uri Ariel, Housing and Construction Minister, says:
"No other nation on the planet accepts diktats from other countries on where it can build and where it can't. We're going to continue issuing tenders for apartments and we're going to build all over Israel, according to our citizens' needs."
What I can report with certainty is Israeli delight at the prospect of housing being constructed, when there has been a shortage for some while. I've noted this before: the construction of housing in Israel so often carries political implications that are assumed to be paramount.
But the bottom line is that people in Israel need places to live. We are, thank Heaven, a growing population. We have more children per couple than Jews anywhere else in the world. Our kids grow up, get married, and seek homes of their own.