maaleh adumim E1 248.88.
(photo credit: Tovah Lazaroff)
Prime Minister-designate Binyamin Netanyahu and Israel Beitenu head Avigdor Lieberman reached a secret understanding as part of the coalition agreement to build in E1 connecting Ma'aleh Adumim to Jerusalem, Army Radio reported on Wednesday, leading to near-hysterical concerns in some circles that what this meant was nothing less than a showdown with the new Obama administration over the issue.
American opposition to construction in E1 is well known, and a secret, unwritten understanding that would lead to construction there would inevitably complicate Jerusalem-Washington relations.
The only problem, said MK David Rotem, a member of the Israel Beiteinu coalition negotiating team, was that there was no such agreement.
Is there hope that Netanyahu would do what every prime minister since Yitzhak Rabin has said they would do, and build E1? Yes, Rotem said. Are there expectations that this would be done? Yes, Rotem said. Is there any kind of commitment, verbal or otherwise? No, he added.
The distance between governments saying they want to build in E1, and then actually doing so, is far indeed. Ma'aleh Adumim Mayor Benny Kashriel said that every prime minister from Yitzhak Rabin to Ariel Sharon had taken steps to advance the plan. All of them, including Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, have promised Kashriel that it would be built. But beyond the construction there of a police station, no building has taken place.
And there is no reason to believe that this time things will be any different. Netanyahu is not looking for a conflict with the new administration of President Barack Obama, and building in E1 would guarantee him just that.
Building in E1 has become for Israeli politicians what moving the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem is for US politicians: easy to say, difficult - if not impossible - to carry out.
Does Netanyahu want to build in E1? Obviously. Will he do so, and risk a rift with the new US Administration? Probably not.
There is a huge difference between expressing support for construction of E1, and actually making the political decision to send the bulldozers there to begin construction. Netanyahu is going to want to prove to Washington that his new government is not the peace obstacle that so many are convinced that it is. Building in E1 would have the opposite effect, and - as a result - is something that will likely go down as just another promise.
Tovah Lazaroff contributed to this report