Israel versus Palestinians 0-1: The Israeli diplomatic efforts against the PA’s attempts to gain international recognition suffered a severe blow this morning in Beijing. Interpol’s General Assembly, meeting in Beijing, voted in favor of accepting the Palestinian application to join the agency. Likud minister Ze’ev Elkin called to immediately cancel all economic gestures for the Palestinians approved by Israel in the past two years and revoke all VIP entry permits given to senior Palesetinian officials. “Israel cannot stand by and keep silent faced with a Palestinian diplomatic war. The PA should not benefit from Israel’s economic gestures while they wage a battle and incite against us here and around the world.” On the other hand, Zionist Union’s Tzipi Livni said it was a “bad decision” but accused the government of creating a “vacuum in the political arena.” “When we held negotiations, there was an agreement that required the Palestinians to refrain from any international action against Israel. When Israel abandons the political arena, the Palestinians rise above it and, unfortunately, also have successes that harm Israel.”
Right Wing Pressure: And if prospects for peace looked grim, Bibi is also facing growing right wing pressure to expand settlement construction. Netanyahu met with settler leaders for a traditional New Year’s toast and they presented a long list of demands for planning and construction. The PM subtly tried to turn down the requests by pointing to the US peace efforts. “We believe the US is going to present a peace plan soon. We believe they are preparing a paper. We must be responsible and sensible. The Americans told us not to be pigs,” Netanyahu said. According to one of the settler leaders present at the meeting, Bibi said that he convinced the administration that there is “no distinction between the settlement blocs and other isolated settlements, and that there is no such thing as a settlement bloc.”
50-Year Settlement Ceremony: Netanyahu is also set to speak today at the official government ceremony in honor of 50 years of Israeli settlement in Judea and Samaria, Jordan Valley and the Golan. The ceremony will take place amidst an ongoing controversy over the Supreme Court’s decision to snub the event. Right-wing NGO Regavim petitioned the court, pointing out that it is protocol for a representative of the judiciary to attend official events. High Court President Miriam Naor had to defend her position to one of her colleagues. Naor argued that, after seeing the list of speakers – Netanyahu, Culture Minister Miri Regev, Education Minister Naftali Bennett and Deputy Knesset Speaker Bezalel Smotrich, probably the most right-wing MK of all – she determined the event to be politically one-sided in a matter of public controversy. As such, it would be unethical for a judge to attend. With the event just hours away, it seems unlikely that Naor’s decision will be overturned by the court over which she presides, and the Right is likely to continue protesting that the court is left-wing.
A-List Turnout: It was a crowded A-List turnout of most of Israel’s top analysts and journalists last night at the US Embassy in Tel Aviv. The gathering was to bid farewell to Yael Feldboy, the Embassy’s press officer who is retiring after working with twelve US Ambassadors. Feldboy’s tenure includes Samuel Lewis (who started in 1977) until David Friedman. Feldboy witnessed almost four decades of highs and lows including countless diplomatic debacles and successes in the US-Israel alliance. Feldboy’s former boss, Ambassador Dan Shapiro, made a toast, (while the incumbent Ambassador David Friedman’s absence was widely noted in cocktail whispers), followed by veteran journalist Udi Segal who recalled press conferences with Colin Powell. Senior members of the embassy staff paid tribute to Feldboy’s career. All of the top media Who’s Who were spotted mingling – including Yonit Levi, Nahum Barnea, Aluf Ben, Chemi Shalev, Ben Caspit, Barak Ravid, Yoav Limor, Israel Hayom’s Boaz Bismuth and Amos Regev, Ilil Shachar and Tal Schneider, former IDF spokesperson Avi Beneyahu and former Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesperson Igal Palmor.