BEITFAJJARMussaAl-Shaer:AFP:Getty

The West Bank settlements are at the center of the Obama administration's heroic effort to keep the Israel-Palestine talks going. And this week is crucial. Netanyahu has to extend the moratorium on new construction for two more months, it seems to me, or this whole thing will unravel. Regardless of his internal coalition politics, these settlements are illegal, those outside the near vicinity of Jersualem are going to have to go under any deal, and the Arab and Muslim worlds are looking to Obama to see if his Cairo speech meant anything. Washington has offered all sorts of sweeteners to the Israelis ... and yet.

The picture above is of a mosque torched today by radical settlers trying to stop the deal:

Arsonists torched a mosque in a Palestinian village in the West Bank on Monday, scrawling "revenge" on a wall in Hebrew and charring copies of the Muslim holy book in a blaze that threatened to stoke new tensions over deadlocked Mideast peacemaking.

No Israel worth saving should appease this kind of bigotry and violence. And it is not rare on the West Bank, conducted by religious fanatics who do not and must not represent the soul of Israel or of the West.

And yet, we have the usual neocon excuses for the peace process to fail yet again. Here, Commentary's Rick Richman takes the Israeli hard right's position against the president of the US; Jennifer Rubin calls the Obama administration "the most anti-Israel administration in history"; elsewhere,  at this critical moment, a crashing silence.

American Jewish pressure on Netanyahu may, of course, be taking place behind the scenes. Netanyahu has indeed shown some signs of pragmatism and good will lately, to his credit, despite the fulminations of his neo-fascist foreign minister. I sure hope so. But we'll see, won't we?

(Photo: A Palestinian Muslim man prays at a partially burnt mosque in the West Bank village of Beit Fajjar, south of Bethlehem, which was allegedly vandalized by Jewish settlers overnight on October 04, 2010. By Musa Al-Shaer/AFP/Getty.)

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