Eight months after Barack Obama was sworn into office last January (and made his first phone call to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas — urging him to resume negotiations that Palestinians cut off when Israel launched a massive military assault on Gaza on 27 December), the Israeli government has thrown down the gauntlet and defied the Obama Administration’s cautionary advice against continued settlement activity.
In a direct challenge to American efforts to restart Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiations, the Israeli Defense Minister — who apparently rules the occupied West Bank — has just authorized construction of some 455 new Jewish homes there.
There are Israeli suggestions that this will be followed later this week by a U.S-Israeli agreement on a temporary settlement freeze.
But would the current United States administration, led by Barack Obama, really be so willing to go along with this?
Today is the Labor Day holiday that marks the end of summer in the USA. Obama is making a big speech, and is embroiled in a controversy about health care. George Mitchell is due in the region later this week. So, the reaction appears to be muted, at least for the moment.
But, the Israeli move on settlements shows that U.S. diplomacy is not overwhelmingly effective at the moment.