Two demonstrations of Israeli hubris in two days leave the region farther than ever from a negotiated future. This arrogance reminds us that the current Palestinian strategy is the right one.
Israeli stalling hints at real agenda
On Wednesday, the Israeli cabinet rejected a formula proposed by the Quartet of mediators - the US, UN, EU, and Russia - in a bid to bring Israelis and Palestinian back to the negotiating table.
This followed by a day Israel's latest step toward building 1,100 more homes in the Gilo district of East Jerusalem. In grand understatement, Hillary Clinton, the US secretary of state, labelled the settlement expansion "counterproductive to our efforts to resume direct negotiations between the parties."
Taken together, the two Israeli moves demonstrate a breathtaking level of hubris, and can be expected to generate still more frustration among Palestinians. In the face of this provocation, however, the current strategy of peace in the streets and diplomacy in high places remains the best path forward for the Palestinian people. Indeed, on the very day Israel's Quartet snubbed diplomacy, the UN Security Council met to consider the Palestinians' just request for statehood recognition.
To be sure, the Quartet proposal - a vapid formula calling for still more talks, this time with a meaningless deadline for agreement by the end of 2012 - seemed unlikely to bring the Palestinians to the table, even if Israel had signed on. The negotiating process has dragged on interminably, to no effect. Who can blame Palestinians for being convinced that Israel is using talks merely to buy time? All the while, Jewish settlement keeps expanding, in East Jerusalem and across the West Bank.
Palestinian leaders had been scheduled to meet today to consider the Quartet proposal, but had already signalled bluntly that there would be no hope of talks without a construction freeze. Israel has now replied to that demand from the mouths of its concrete mixers.
News reports said senior Israeli ministers were split on the Quartet offer, which was for unconditional talks. But it's clear which side is in charge there.
(It is also clear that the Israeli government has no qualms about embarrassing US President Barack Obama with their intransigence; despite this Israeli arrogance the US will still be expected obediently to veto the Palestinians' statehood-recognition bid.)
To gain still more demographic leverage, Israel is progressively forfeiting what international sympathy it has had. Israel, and even the US, cannot continue indefinitely ignoring the opinion of the world.