[W]hy even make the announcement about planning and zoning if the building phase is never going to arrive? Following the embarrassingly lopsided U.N. vote and the criticism from his right that he did not go far enough during Operation Pillar of Cloud, Netanyahu needed to make a big gesture before the January 22 election to demonstrate that he is committed to settlements and that he will not take the PA’s new statehood status in stride. E1 is an enormous deal to the settler wing of Likud, and declaring a new planning and zoning stage is red meat to Israeli right-wing partisans in a variety of camps, whether they be pro-settlements or have a religious or nationalist attachment to an eternal undivided Jerusalem.
I'm sorry but saying this is due to pre-election politics is not an excuse. In fact, it's precisely because Netanyahu needs these religious fanatics to win elections (and in my view pretty clearly believes in Greater Israel for ever) that the settlements continue to proliferate and grow. The only thing that can sustain an Israeli government is the very thing likely to isolate Israel even further from its European allies: more aggressive settlements. Ibish:
Britain, France and Sweden are reportedly considering withdrawing their ambassadors from Tel Aviv if building goes ahead. UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon called the plan a potentially "fatal blow" to a two-state solution, because Palestinians will not sign to a peace agreement that does not allow East Jerusalem to serve as their capital.The New York Times reported that the announcement came as a "rude shock" to the Obama administration, particularly since they had specifically warned Israel in advance against precisely this form of "retaliation."
But we know how Bibi Netanyahu views the US: as an "ally" that can be pushed around and treated with consistent contempt. If this latest outrage doesn't prove that definitively, what would?
(Photo: A Bedouin camp is seen in the E1 area, between Jerusalem and the Israeli West Bank settlement of Maale Adumim, on December 3, 2012. Paris and London called in Israel's envoys for consultations as the Jewish state faced mounting diplomatic pressure over plans to build 3,000 settler homes in E1 and east Jerusalem and the West Bank. By Menahem Kahana/AFP/Getty Images)