Jerusalem and Beyond

TEL AVIV – The policy of Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s government on Jerusalem is ill conceived. This was amply demonstrated by the announcement of the construction of 1,600 new apartments in the occupied eastern part of the city during what was supposed to be a charm visit by US Vice-President Joe Biden, Israel’s best friend in President Barack Obama’s administration.

And yet, while Netanyahu might not be a great peacemaker, the Obama administration, by portraying the announcement as a deliberate attempt to frustrate the upcoming indirect talks with the Palestinians, exaggerated the incident for its own purposes.

However unconvincing Netanyahu might sound to his critics, he is interested in negotiations. That does not mean that he is capable of taking the necessary decisions on the core issues, without which it will be impossible to conclude an agreement. But, in addition to peacemaking, Netanyahu is also – and perhaps primarily – engaged in a survival exercise, an impossible attempt to please too many actors with disparate expectations.

Negotiations with the Palestinians are a way to please Obama, whose backing Netanyahu will badly need if and when a green light for an assault on Iran’s nuclear installations is