In March, Israel's prime minister, Benyamin Netanyahu, was embarrassed (and the Obama administration justifiably outraged) when Jerusalem's municipal government approved new homes for Israelis in Palestinian neighborhoods at the very time that Vice President Biden was visiting. This week, Netanyahu's foreign minister (a West Bank settler himself) enunciated his own policy on the peace talks, which the prime minister, thankfully, disavowed.
What exactly are we witnessing? Total governmental dysfunction? The system's capacity for giving the PM plausible deniability, undermining the peace process so he doesn't have to? Or just democracy, Israel style? I bet #3. The Jewish state's one-man, one-policy approach to politics helps us appreciate the lack of wiggle room Netanyahu has when it comes to the issue of West Bank settlements. But that doesn't mean they don't have to stop. It makes no logical or moral sense to build another unit of housing on land that's supposed to be a Palestinian state someday, and I think Netanyahu knows it. I prayed he'd have his Nixon in China moment last week, before the 10-month moratorium on new settlements expired. For her sake (a friend I made in Jericho in 2007, who must be nine or 10 by now), I hope it comes soon.