The pretense of an American “victory” in last week’s settlement row was short-lived, indeed, but everyone seemed pretty keen to sweep the whole messy incident under the rug, with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu visiting the US this week. It seems however that the right-far-right coalition in Israel isn’t finished thumbing its nose as President Obama’s attempts to kick-start negotiations.
Earlier today, just hours before Netanyahu was scheduled to meet with Obama, the Jerusalem municipal government made a very public announcement about a comparatively minuscule settlement expansion. Only 20 apartments were approved, but after shaming Vice President Biden with an ill-timed announcement, Israel had supposedly agreed to a “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy that would keep such embarrassing announcements out of the public spotlight. The announcement came anyhow, and the timing seemed to be designed, again, to court controversy with the Obama Administration.
Shortly later, Netanyahu was on the offensive again. Following up yesterday’s claims that Israel was ready at any time to restart peace talks with the Palestinians, the prime minister threatened to block all peace efforts for the next year unless the Palestinians abandoned their “illogical” demands to stop expanding settlements in occupied East Jerusalem.
It seems at this point any pretense of working with the Obama Administration has been abandoned, and the Netanyahu government is now openly shoring up its support among US Congressmen for the inevitable showdown. With a large number of Congressmen eager to condemn President Obama for anything resembling criticism of the Netanyahu government, it seems the prime minister is looking to ensure that those Congressmen remain at the ready, and the Obama Administration has plenty of things to criticize.
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