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U.S. overseeing mysterious construction project in Israel; as UN vote recognizes state of Palestine; US and Israel object.


Published: November 28

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers plans to supervise construction of a five-story underground facility for an Israel Defense Forces complex, oddly named “Site 911,” at an Israeli Air Force base near Tel Aviv.

Expected to take more than two years to build, at a cost of up to $100 million, the facility is to have classrooms on Level 1, an auditorium on Level 3, a laboratory, shock-resistant doors, protection from nonionizing radiation and very tight security. Clearances will be required for all construction workers, guards will be at the fence and barriers will separate it from the rest of the base.  
Only U.S. construction firms are being allowed to bid on the contract and proposals are due Dec. 3, according to the latest Corps of Engineers notice.
Site 911 is the latest in a long history of military construction projects the United States has undertaken for the IDF under the U.S. Foreign Military Sales program. The 1998 Wye River Memorandum between Israel and the Palestinian Authority has led to about $500 million in U.S. construction of military facilities for the Israelis, most of them initially in an undeveloped part of the Negev Desert. It was done to ensure there were bases to which IDF forces stationed in the West Bank could be redeployed.
Site 911, which will be built at another base, appears to be one of the largest projects. Each of the first three underground floors is to be roughly 41,000 square feet, according to the Corps notice. The lower two floors are much smaller and hold equipment.
Security concerns are so great that non-Israeli employees hired by the builder can come only from “the U.S., Canada, Western Europe countries, Poland, Moldavia, Thailand, Philippines, Venezuela, Romania and China,” according to the Corps notice. “The employment of Palestinians is also forbidden,” it says.

Palestinians win de facto U.N. recognition of sovereign state

UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) - The 193-nation U.N. General Assembly on Thursday overwhelmingly approved the de facto recognition of the sovereign state of Palestine after Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas called on the world body to issue its long overdue “birth certificate.”

The U.N. victory for the Palestinians was a diplomatic setback forthe United States and Israel, which were joined by only a handful of countries in voting against the move to upgrade the Palestinian Authority’s observer status at the United Nations to “non-member state” from “entity,” like the Vatican.
Britain called on the United States to use its influence to help break the long impasse in Israeli-Palestinian peace talks. Washington also called for a revival of direct negotiations.
There were 138 votes in favor, nine against and 41 abstentions. Three countries did not take part in the vote, held on the 65th anniversary of the adoption of U.N. resolution 181 that partitioned Palestine into separate Jewish and Arab states.
Thousands of flag-waving Palestinians in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip set off fireworks and danced in the streets to celebrate the vote.
The assembly approved the upgrade despite threats by the United States and Israel to punish the Palestinians by withholding funds for the West Bank government. U.N. envoys said Israel might not retaliate harshly against the Palestinians over the vote as long as they do not seek to join the International Criminal Court.

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