Opinion Brief

Israel's 'provocative' new settlement plans

After Palestinian leaders ask the U.N. for statehood, Israel plays hardball by approving new homes on contested land

On Tuesday, Israel announced that it had approved the construction of 1,100 homes for Jewish settlers in disputed east Jerusalem. The move, coming just days after Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas requested membership in the United Nations, cast further doubt on the prospect of renewing U.S.-brokered peace talks. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton called Israel's act "counterproductive," and Egypt's foreign minister said Israel was being "provocative" and "irresponsible." Is that fair — or did the Palestinians ask for this with their U.N. power play?

Israel has created a new obstacle to peace: Israel's "timing could not be more inappropriate," says Tamsin Walker in Germany's Deutsche Welle. Just a week ago, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told Abbas, "Let's get on with it. Let's negotiate peace." He could have demonstrated his sincerity by respecting Abbas' demand for a settlement freeze. Instead, Netanyahu did something the Palestinians saw, predictably, as a "slap in the face.""Settlement construction rears its head again"

Jewish settlements aren't the problem — Abbas is: The Palestinians' "U.N. gambit" didn't help their cause, says Elliott Abrams at the Council on Foreign Relations. In fact, Abbas "offended or annoyed" just about everyone — Israel, the U.S., Europe — involved in the peace efforts. Washington may not be thrilled with Israel's construction plans, but nobody really thinks a settlement freeze is "a legitimate precondition for negotiations." It's time for Abbas to stop making demands and start making concessions."Abbas strikes out"

To achieve peace, everyone will have to make sacrifices: The U.N. showdown was posturing for the folks back home, say Saliba Sarsar and Hussein Ibish at The Huffington Post. Abbas talked up his people's case with zero outreach to Israel; Netanyahu was defiant in an attempt to please the Israeli Right; and Obama "offered empathy to Israel" — but not the Palestinians — to defuse GOP attacks on his Israel policies. To make progress, all three now have to "rise above politics" and get down to business."The Palestinian statehood bid — what comes next?"

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