Jerusalem – Prime Minister Ehud Olmert will approve in the next number of days the construction of 800 new housing units in the Orthodox Jewish community of Beitar Illit, located in the Etzion Bloc to the south of Jerusalem, built on hills that Israel acquired after the 1967 war.

Mr. Olmert apprised the Shas Orthodox spiritual leader Rabbi Ovadia Yosef of his decision in a telephone conversation the two men held on Monday.

Shas holds 12 of the 68 seats in Mr. Olmert’s shaky coalition. An Israeli prime minister needs 61 seats to maintain a government, since the Knesset comprises 120 members.

U.S. Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice, who was apprised of the development by journalists in Amman, Jordan, did not try to conceal her displeasure with Mr. Olmert’s steps that did not help the peace process, as she said.

The Jerusalem municipality’s District Committee for Planning and Construction on Monday approved the construction of 600 new housing units in Pisgat Zeev in northern Jerusalem. Relations between the Jerusalem municipality and the government became tense some two months ago following reports about delays in the development of Jerusalem neighborhoods that lie on the far side of the Green Line.

Jerusalem Mayor Uri Lupoliansky issued a statement that was fiercely critical of Mr. Olmert. On Monday, he said that he believed that “in the wake of the prime minister’s statement that construction in the neighborhoods of Jerusalem would continue, the government will not impose any delays on this plan.”

The backdrop to the decision to launch the construction project is the severe lack of new apartments in Jerusalem.

That is why, in the past two years, a number of high-rise projects were approved for central Jerusalem, and the last remaining unbuilt land reserves in the city were rezoned so as to allow for construction. New possibilities for expansion were also examined.

Pisgat Zeev, an area also taken over by Israel during the 1967 war, is the largest residential neighborhood in Israel. It is home to 50,000 people. It was established in the 1990s and is named after the legendary Zionist nationalist leader, Zeev Jabotinsky.

All this means that Prime Minister Ehud Olmert backtracked on Monday on his decision to stop development and construction in the neighborhoods in areas of Jerusalem that were annexed by Israel in 1967.

“I don’t need to announce every two days that neighborhoods in Jerusalem will continue to be built,” said Mr. Olmert at a meeting of Kadima Knesset members on Monday.

“All of the reports about dramatic construction operations in the territories are incorrect and it isn’t true that we’re building in violation of the commitments that were given. We aren’t building new settlements and we aren’t expropriating land for new settlements. Beitar Illit isn’t a new settlement, for example. Everyone needs to understand that, and those things were never hidden. With them in the framework, we are conducting the negotiations that are going to continue to advance,” Mr. Olmert told the Kadima faction members.

Political Source: Negotiations At Very Advanced Stage

The negotiations between the Israeli government and the Abbas regime are at a very advanced state, said political officials who have been monitoring the talks between Israel and the PA but who have been kept uninformed about the minutiae. This assessment is also shared by opposition leader Binyamin Netanyahu in the wake of his meeting on Sunday with Ms. Rice.

Mr. Netanyahu said on Monday at a Likud faction meeting, “Our assessment needs to be that the political negotiations are at advanced stages. The Palestinians are talking about the fact that all the core issues, including Jerusalem, have been placed on the negotiating table, and now the parties are focused on efforts to reduce the gaps between them.”

These conclusions were reached following the reports about the frequent meetings that Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni, in her capacity as the chairwoman of the Israeli negotiating team, with her Palestinian counterpart, Ahmed Qurei (Abu Ala). The fact that Ms. Livni and Mr. Qurei have refrained from speaking publicly, contrary to past experience, has led people on the Right to believe that the negotiations have progressed.

A source who is in contact with senior PA officials said that there were signs on the Palestinian side that significant progress had been made in the negotiations. He said the Palestinians have shown a “sense of urgency.” The source explained, “The Palestinians realize that the coming number of months are an excellent window of opportunity for them, mainly thanks to the fact that the peace process is entering a very tight schedule, with even the Americans having begun now to pressure Israel to show security and political flexibility towards the Palestinians.”

The source added that the Palestinians have publicly stated that they intend to capitalize on this situation in order to make all of their demands on issues including Jerusalem, the refugees and borders – the three core issues that were the central points in contention between Israel and the Palestinians prior to the Annapolis conference.

The source said that the Palestinians would be prepared to be flexible were there to be Israeli concessions on the core issues, including Jerusalem.

Civilian Speaks About Shooting Terrorist Who Tried To Stab Him

“The terrorist had his hand inside his shirt, and suddenly he shouted ‘Allahu Akbar,’ – God is Great – and tried to stab us. I took a step back and fired one shot at him and he fell.”

This was stated on Monday by Erez Baron, a resident of Ofra, who killed a Palestinian who tried to stab people who were waiting at the bus stop at Shilo junction.

The Arab terrorist, a student at the Beir Zeit University near Ramallah, arrived at the junction, north of Jerusalem, carrying a knife 15 inches long. A number of civilians were waiting at the stop for a ride to Jerusalem.

“The terrorist arrived and began to ask questions,” one of them said. “He spoke in English and asked how to get to Beir Zeit. From the beginning he behaved in a suspicious manner.

“Suddenly he spun round on me and tried to stab me. I jumped back and he tried to stab Erez, who shot him.”

After he was shot by Mr. Baron, the terrorist tried to get up and to throw the knife at one of the civilians, but Mr. Baron shot him again and killed him. In a search of his body, another knife was found.

A senior officer from the IDF Central Command said that “from a preliminary examination of the incident, it emerged that the terrorist behaved in a suspicious manner, which led the resident (Mr. Baron) to tense and to take hold of his gun. The civilian who fired behaved in an excellent manner, no less than that. His suspicion led him to a state of readiness and his life was in danger, and he acted properly and in a proportionate manner.”

After the incident, a member of the Israeli Knesset Parliament, Uri Ariel, criticized the removal of roadblocks in Judea and Samaria, saying that, “A few hours after the IDF began removing roadblocks and making it easier for Palestinians to travel, a terrorist tried to murder an Israeli a few miles from a roadblock that had been removed. Removing roadblocks shows a flagrant lack of responsibility, and the responsibility lies entirely with Defense Minister Ehud Barak who approved such an irresponsible act.”

Israel Prepares For Biggest Exercise Ever

The Middle East Newsline confirms that Israel plans to conduct its largest exercise ever to prepare for massive missile attacks by Iran and Syria.

The Israeli government has been preparing for a five-day exercise this month that would simulate conventional and unconventional missile strikes from Iran, Lebanon and Syria. Officials said the exercise would test emergency response as well as evacuation of cities struck by enemy missiles.

The exercise, scheduled to begin on Sunday, has been organized by the Israeli National Emergency Authority. The authority was established in 2007 as part of recommendations in the aftermath of the Hezbollah war a year earlier, in which 4,500 rockets landed in Israel.

Israeli Deputy Defense Minister Matan Vilna’i has been responsible for the exercise, meant to integrate efforts by the military, police and emergency services. The exercise also envisioned missile and rocket attacks on southern Israeli cities by the Hamas regime in the Gaza Strip.

The exercise would include a simulation conducted by the government, with Mr. Olmert convening the Cabinet in order to facilitate a response to the enemy strike.

David Bedein can be reached at His Web site is

©The Bulletin 2008


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David Bedein
David Bedein is an MSW community organizer and an investigative journalist.   In 1987, Bedein established the Israel Resource News Agency at Beit Agron to accompany foreign journalists in their coverage of Israel, to balance the media lobbies established by the PLO and their allies.   Mr. Bedein has reported for news outlets such as CNN Radio, Makor Rishon, Philadelphia Inquirer, Los Angeles Times, BBC and The Jerusalem Post, For four years, Mr. Bedein acted as the Middle East correspondent for The Philadelphia Bulletin, writing 1,062 articles until the newspaper ceased operation in 2010. Bedein has covered breaking Middle East negotiations in Oslo, Ottawa, Shepherdstown, The Wye Plantation, Annapolis, Geneva, Nicosia, Washington, D.C., London, Bonn, and Vienna. Bedein has overseen investigative studies of the Palestinian Authority, the Expulsion Process from Gush Katif and Samaria, The Peres Center for Peace, Peace Now, The International Center for Economic Cooperation of Yossi Beilin, the ISM, Adalah, and the New Israel Fund.   Since 2005, Bedein has also served as Director of the Center for Near East Policy Research.   A focus of the center's investigations is The United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA). In that context, Bedein authored Roadblock to Peace: How the UN Perpetuates the Arab-Israeli Conflict - UNRWA Policies Reconsidered, which caps Bedein's 28 years of investigations of UNRWA. The Center for Near East Policy Research has been instrumental in reaching elected officials, decision makers and journalists, commissioning studies, reports, news stories and films. In 2009, the center began decided to produce short movies, in addition to monographs, to film every aspect of UNRWA education in a clear and cogent fashion.   The center has so far produced seven short documentary pieces n UNRWA which have received international acclaim and recognition, showing how which UNRWA promotes anti-Semitism and incitement to violence in their education'   In sum, Bedein has pioneered The UNRWA Reform Initiative, a strategy which calls for donor nations to insist on reasonable reforms of UNRWA. Bedein and his team of experts provide timely briefings to members to legislative bodies world wide, bringing the results of his investigations to donor nations, while demanding reforms based on transparency, refugee resettlement and the demand that terrorists be removed from the UNRWA schools and UNRWA payroll.   Bedein's work can be found at: and A new site,, will be launched very soon.