The Israeli government sparked a diplomatic uproar this week, disrupting Vice President Joe Biden's trip to Israel by announcing a controversial plan to build 1,600 more homes for Jewish settlers in disputed East Jerusalem. The move angered both the White House, which wants a settlement freeze, and Palestinian leaders, who threatened to pull out of upcoming U.S.-mediated peace talks. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu personally apologized to Biden, calling the timing "unfortunate," and his interior minister said Israel had "no intention of provoking anyone." Is this the case, or was Israel sending a pointed message to the Obama administration in advance of the peace talks? (Watch a report about Joe Biden's visit to Israel.)
Israel meant to send Washington a message: Israel apologized for the timing of its announcement, says Tony Karon in Time, but not for the housing plan itself, and "therein lies the rub." Israel may intend to "avoid publicly humiliating its friends in Washington" in the future, but it wants Obama to know it "remains equally committed to expanding its grip on East Jerusalem."
"Israel embarrasses Vice President Biden, sparks rebuke from U.S."
The Palestinians are escalating tensions, too: Meanwhile, the Palestinians are naming a public square after Dalal Mughrabi, who led a 1978 bus hijacking that killed 37 Israelis, says Ami Eden in JTA.org. If Biden doesn't condemn that equally provocative initiative, we'll know the White House really "is picking on Israel by focusing so heavily on settlements."
"And what about the Palestinian incitement?"
The message is that Obama's peace push has already failed: President Obama has demanded a settlement freeze for a year, says Jennifer Rubin in Commentary. But his point man, George Mitchell, has organized nothing more promising than some new talks so indirect the Israelis and Palestinians won't even be in the same room. As this week's "diplomatic belly-flop" proved, the Obama administration has "made a bad situation worse."
"Are they being smart yet?"
The talks will fail, but it's not Obama's fault: Hamas leaders still won't accept Israel's existence, says Carlo Strenger in Israel's Haaretz, and the Israeli government won't end "its policy of dispossession on Palestinian land, whether in East Jerusalem or other areas of the West Bank." The Israeli and Palestinian people are "striving for peace," but their leaders aren't — that's why the talks are "doomed to failure."
"Are peace talks doomed to fail before they start?"