Ethan Bronner reports:
Israel announced Monday that it would build nearly 700 housing units in Jewish areas of Jerusalem, on territory conquered in the 1967 war that the Palestinians claim for their future state. The move was criticized by Washington and condemned by Palestinian leaders, who cited it as evidence that the Israelis were undermining efforts to restart peace talks.
I understand the impulse behind the building of these housing units. They are going up in areas that no one -- Israeli, Palestinian, or American -- believes will become part of the Palestinian state. They are being built on land that will be swapped for territory now under Israeli sovereignty. The Netanyahu government, under pressure from the Obama Administration, is trying to solidify even further -- these neighborhoods are already thickly-built -- Israel's claim to these places. So the impulse is understandable, but Netanyahu shouldn't give in to this impulse, for two reasons. One, he will never please the settlers and their partisans in the cabinet. They will always demand more. Two, building like this, and right now, undermines Israel's relationship with the United States, at a crucial moment. Next year may be the year of decision on the Iranian nuclear program, which Netanyahu calls an existential threat to his country. You would think that he would want the strongest possible bond just now with the American president. But this new building binge only serves to alienate the President, and for what? Does Israel's existence depend on these 700 apartments?