Some Arabs hate Israel for merely existing. Many more chiefly hate its often roughshod treatment of Palestinians.
Nothing exemplifies the Israeli government’s arrogance more than its obsessive expansion of Jewish settlements in Palestinian East Jerusalem and the West Bank.
The only conceivable peace between Israelis and Arabs will require an independent Palestinian nation in those areas. Yet Israel’s ruling Likud Party seems bent on salting Palestinian territory with hostile Jewish enclaves, a practice that antagonizes the entire Muslim world and Israel’s chief ally, the United States.
Now, by the day, Israel’s neighborhood is quickly turning more dangerous.
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A week and a half after the cease-fire in Gaza, Hamas is probably already restocking its missile arsenal. The Islamist Muslim Brotherhood is tightening its grip on Egypt. Turkey, once a reliable and powerful friend of Israel, has aligned itself with Hamas.
The Likud government, in its wisdom, has chosen this moment to expand the settlements. On Friday, it loudly approved construction of 3,000 new Jewish homes in Palestinian territory. It also announced a zoning process for approving settlements in a section of East Jerusalem critical to Palestinian statehood.
At times like this, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and other Likud officials look as pathologically foolish as their worst enemies.
The settlement announcement was a fit of pique over the United Nations’ recognition Thursday of a Palestinian state, a move engineered by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.
The Palestinian Authority that Abbas leads wasn’t supposed to seek a certificate of statehood except as part of peace negotiations with Israel. Abbas flipped off Israel; Israel flipped off Abbas and the rest of the world.
Had Netanyahu simply yelled and screamed – and kept the damn settlements out of it – he would have bolstered Abbas’ standing just as Hamas has been eating into his political support.
Abbas has just shown Palestinians that he can get something for his people peacefully, without firing rockets at Tel Aviv or vowing to destroy Israel and massacre Jews. That deserved a heartfelt but helpful rant, not a shiv in the gut.
Likud may find the U.N. vote infuriating – but really, is it as bad as Hamas warheads dropping on Israeli towns? As bad as armed-to-the teeth Hezbollah fighters massing on the Lebanese border? Those are the forces strengthened by settlements.
Abbas has been an adversary but not an enemy. Israeli leaders had best figure out the difference.