Maariv: Eli Yishai apologizes to Dan Shapiro for Biden fiasco [UPDATED]
UPDATE: It only took Eli Yishai afew hours to make a public course correction. At 3:32pm Ynet reported that the Minister was working to speed up construction in East Jerusalem.
Note that this development follows a recent report that Shas spiritual leader, Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, had stated that US-Israeli relations were more important than continued construction in East Jerusalem.
Eli Bardenstein, Maariv, April 26 2010 [Hebrew original here and at bottom of post]
Interior Minister Eli Yishai met last night in Jerusalem with Director of the Middle East department at the National Security Council Dan Shapiro. In the meeting, Yishai made it clear to Shapiro, a high-ranking administration official, that he regretted the insensitivity displayed during the visit of Vice President Joe Biden to Israel.
The permits in question were issued at the beginning of March, during the US vice president’s visit to Israel. The Jerusalem District Planning and Construction Committee, which is under the responsibility of the Interior Ministry, approved a plan for the construction of 1,600 housing units in the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Ramat Shlomo, sparking a crisis with the Americans.
In the course of the meeting, which was held at Shapiro’s initiative, Yishai made it clear to Shapiro that he attributed supreme importance to the Israeli alliance with the US administration, and promised that in future the Interior Ministry would know how to act with greater sensitivity during important visits. However, Yishai emphasized that the Jewish neighborhoods in East Jerusalem were the only neighborhoods in which construction could be carried out in East Jerusalem, and said that construction there would continue.
Shapiro—a key figure with regard to Israel-US relations and a personal appointment of White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel—conducted the entire meeting in fluent Hebrew, to Yishai’s surprise and joy. Shapiro always accompanies special US envoy George Mitchell in all his visits to Israel and Ramallah.
Meanwhile, PA Chairman Abu Mazen has requested to convene the foreign ministers of the Arab League before giving his consent to launching the proximity talks. This was related yesterday by Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu in the meeting of Likud ministers that was held prior to the cabinet meeting. “If there are no surprises,” he said, “the diplomatic process may begin in this format in the near future.”
Netanyahu said that the proximity talks would not deal with core issues, but only with “general issues,” and would only include an exchange of positions on several major issues. “I told Mitchell that the most sensitive issues could only be resolved in direct talks, which should be reached as quickly as possible,” Netanyahu added.