Israel's latest building plan is a pointless provocation
After Israel was burned last March when the Interior Ministry announced intentions to authorize construction at Ramat Shlomo, Netanyahu cannot now hide behind the excuse that he didn't know that such plans were about to be announced.
"That's my character," the scorpion says to the frog, in a familiar joke, as it stings the frog to death after being transported by its victim across the river. It appears that the Interior Ministry, the Jerusalem District Planning and Building Committee and planning authorities in Ariel suffer from similar symptoms.
Precisely at a time when the prime minister is trying to convince at least America's Jewish leadership about the rectitude of Israel's policies and its aspiration for an agreement with the Palestinians, and as the fate of the suspended peace talks is to be determined, these elements have found cause to announce a plan for new construction beyond the Green Line. It features about 1,000 additional housing units in Har Homa, another 800 units in Ariel, 32 housing units in Pisgat Ze'ev, and the list could continue.
The American response - expression of deep disappointment - is not a surprise, but makes little impression on the Interior Ministry, Ariel's patrons and the Jerusalem municipality, which view the announcement, and not just the construction itself, as a worthy response to American pressure. It has thus become clear to everyone that two governments rule the state: one which tries to demonstrate willingness to operate in a framework that could possibly lead to peace talks and an agreement, and another one that acts to destroy this framework. That's their character.
After Israel was burned last March when the Interior Ministry announced intentions to authorize the construction of 1,600 housing units at Ramat Shlomo, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu cannot now hide behind the excuse that he didn't know that such plans were about to be announced. The open rift last March between Israel and the U.S., that threatened the whole network of relations between the countries, gave rise to an agreement holding that Israel would not again surprise the U.S. government with construction plans for the territories and East Jerusalem.
However, it turns out that Israel is unable or unwilling to abide by this agreement. Thus, this direct, public tussle with the American government and world opinion leads to a new situation: Israel's being defined as a peace rejectionist and an untrustworthy state. If the prime minister does not immediately announce his opposition to these construction plans, and his intention to defer them at least until a new agreement is reached concerning talks with the Palestinians, he will be unable to convince anyone that he really wants peace.