The latest round of peace negotiations between the Israeli and Palestinian governments is set to begin on Wednesday, but the Israelis continue to push forward on the one idea that seems destined to scuttle the whole process. The government signed off on 900 new housing units in the territory of East Jerusalem on Monday, which is on top of the 1,000 new settlement units they approved on Sunday. Despite claims from both the United States and the United Nations that such settlements are illegal — and threats from the Palestinian negotiators to not even show up on Wednesday because of it — the country is going forward with the one thing their opponents least want to see happen.
Even members of the Israeli opposition party are accusing Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of trying to "undermine" any chance of an agreement, before the talks can even start.
Secretary of State John Kerry tried to assure everyone that the talks will go forward as planned and that settlements should be part of the negotiations. But it makes it hard to negotiate when one side won't even dangle the possibility that they could back off on a key demand.
Meanwhile, some Israelis are still upset about a different Palestinian demand that was agreed to: the release of nearly 100 prisoners, many of whom were convicted of killing Israeli citizens. Relatives of some of the prisoners' victims appealed the decision to release the convicts ahead of the talks, but were rejected by the Supreme Court on Tuesday. While the release was meant to be a goodwill gesture, it's being offset by the announcement of the settlements while still angering many Israelis who will now demand that negotiators drive a harder bargain.
And if all that wasn't enough, Israel had to shoot down a rocket that was launched at the town of Eilat on the Red Sea earlier today. The rocket came from Egypt, not the Palestinian territories, and has more to with the Islamist conflict in that country than it does the cause of Gaza and the West Bank. But it does reminds Israelis of the precarious position they find themselves, making hardliners even more determined not to give in. While Secretary Kerry's work to get the two sides back to the negotiating table was encouraging, almost nothing that's happened since then has been.