Earlier today, we reported on the announcement that Israel would seek to build about 20,000 settlement units in the West Bank. (Yes that is an unusually large number.)
The timing of the plan was less than stellar to say the least, the Times had just accused the Israeli premier of being “hysterical” about the stalled Iranian nuclear negotiations; controversial settlements are not what the doctor ordered with the Israeli-Palestinian peace talks also in something of a morass.
This afternoon, Bibi’s American and Palestinian counterparts quickly weighed in, respectively, with criticism and threats of ending the peace process. Very wisely, Netanyahu changed course and absolved himself of the blame. Knowing where public opinion is truly formed, took his message to Facebook.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, this evening (Tuesday, 12 November 2013), directed Construction and Housing Minister Uri Ariel to reconsider all of the steps for evaluating planning potential that he distributed without any advance coordination. The Prime Minister told Minister Ariel: “This step does not contribute to settlement. On the contrary, there is damage here for settlement. This is a meaningless step – legally and in practice – and an action that creates an unnecessary confrontation with the international community at a time when we are making an effort to persuade elements in the international community to reach a better deal with Iran. At this time, the attention of the international community must not be diverted from the main effort – preventing Iran from receiving an agreement that will allow it to continue its military nuclear program. As a member of the Government, action must be coordinated and have the benefit of forethought.”
Minister Ariel told Prime Minister Netanyahu that he accedes to his request to reconsider all publications that were issued today regarding the evaluation of planning potential and said that in any case the issue was the potential for planning and not any sort of official stage.
Despite the audacity of the earlier announcement, I guess Netanyahu comes out of this looking reasonable, which is what the world needs from him right now. That said, a line about how this advances the peace process might have helped.
Adam Chandler was previously a staff writer at Tablet. His work has appeared in the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, the Atlantic, Slate, Esquire, New York, and elsewhere. He tweets @allmychandler.