National Security Brief: Israeli Minister Criticizes Settlement Expansion Ahead Of Peace Talks

Israel’s finance minister criticized the Israeli government’s announcement on Sunday that it had given final approval to build nearly 1,200 housing units in West Bank settlements and East Jerusalem, saying they undermine peace talks with the Palestinians that are set to resume this week.

Israel’s housing ministry announced on Sunday that it had approved construction of nearly 800 new homes in East Jerusalem — where the Palestinians envision as the capital of their future state — and 400 more for large settlement blocks in the West Bank. “The Israeli government is working to reduce the cost of living in all parts of Israel. No country receives orders about where it can and cannot build from other countries,” said Housing Minister Uri Ariel, who is from the pro-settlement Jewish Home Party, referring to international condemnation of Israeli settlement activity.


Yair Lapid from the centrist Yesh Atid party criticized the move, the Financial Times reports:

“Housing solutions should be implemented in the areas where there is demand for housing, and this is the purpose of the housing cabinet,” Mr Lapid said on Sunday, referring to a government body that he heads. “The use of resources intended for housing the middle class in order to unnecessarily defy the Americans and to put sticks in the spokes of the peace talks is not correct or helpful for the peace process.”

The New York Times says “[t]he settlement move appeared intended to appease the right-wing members of the Israeli government before the release of the 26 [Palestinian] prisoners, most of whom have served 20 years or more in prison for deadly attacks against Israelis.”

In other news:

  • The Wall Street Journal reports: President Barack Obama’s proposal to revamp the National Security Agency’s surveillance programs faces potent obstacles on Capitol Hill, where both parties are divided on the issue and some Republicans already are throwing cold water on a cornerstone of his plan.
  • The New York Times reports: American diplomatic outposts reopened throughout the Middle East on Sunday, easing the sense of imminent danger that has preoccupied the Obama administration since it learned of a possible terrorist attack from communications between two high-ranking officials of Al Qaeda two weeks ago.
  • And finally, in an L.A. Times op-ed on Saturday, a former career CIA officer and former deputy director of the National Counterterrorism Center pushes back on Edward Snowden. “I have long held security clearances, and I participated in many of the activities he describes,” said the former spy Andrew Liepman. “[D]espite the grumbling from Snowden and his admirers, the U.S. government truly does make strenuous efforts not to violate privacy, not just because it respects privacy (which it does), but because it simply doesn’t have the time to read irrelevant emails or listen in on conversations unconnected to possible plots against American civilians.”