Friday, November 20, 2009

Bibi Won't Fight City Hall

Benyamin Netanyahu blames city hall for the recent approval of 900 homes in a suburb of Arab east Jerusalem. As a result of the leak of news of a planning committee's action, he lost considerable credibility, in spite of his efforts to impress the U.S. and jump start the peace process by severely restricting the expansion of West Bank settlements.

His aides complain that the PM couldn't legally have interfered with a local decision and didn't even know about it in advance. Those who say that their statements lack credibility -- that Netanyahu must've known -- should produce evidence to that effect. It's the kind of thing that happens in a democracy all the time. In fairness to Bibi's critics, it's also true that Israel has acted a little schizo for years, favoring a Palestinian state while taking steps -- new homes in settlements, roads, water rights, the serpentine security wall -- that would seem to threaten making a state untenable.

Lots of people claim and want to believe that Israel plots everything with the goal of making a workable Palestine impossible. To me, Israel looks like a free people working out their political differences while living in extremely close quarters with an aggrieved people who sometimes act like neighbors and other times like enemies. Security risks aside, a completely coherent policy and stance would probably come hard to a people who as democrats are inclined to a system based on the principle of one person, one party.

Israel's latest moment of incoherence is helpful, because it puts more pressure on Netanyahu at a critical time. He should use the opportunity to take whatever additional step is necessary to get the peace talks started again.

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