This is a really sleazy move by Bibi Netanyahu:
JERUSALEM — Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will approve the construction of hundreds of new housing units in Israeli settlements in the West Bank in the coming days as a prelude to a building freeze of six to nine months aimed at restarting peace talks with the Palestinians, senior Israeli officials said on Friday.
The plan is an attempt to ease pressure on Mr. Netanyahu from within his own Likud Party, which wants settlements to continue unimpeded, and from Washington, the Palestinian Authority and the rest of the Arab world, which want a total halt to such construction.
Senior Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat Palestinian Authority also criticized the move on Friday, saying it would derail any progress in peace negotiations.
“I think the only thing that will be suspended by this announcement is the peace process,” said Saeb Erekat.
I’m not sure, ultimately, how much this decision will actually suspend the peace process. If Israel comes to the table with an acceptable deal, we can hope the Palestinians will be inclined to take it. Still, brazenly spiteful maneuvers like this will make it more difficult for the Palestinian leadership to accept a deal, which at first blush, will be fairly anemic. Various reports indicate the thinking was to buy wiggle room for Netanyahu with his supporters in the right-wing Likud party, and if this the only way a deal can be sold to Israeli’s than so be it, but Netanyahu better hope the Palestinians take the deal.
Finally, if the US hopes to even pretend to be a good faith moderator, American politicians should openly condemn these approvals.
UPDATE: White House statement, “[T]he United States does not accept the legitimacy of continued settlement expansion and we urge that it stop.”
UPDATE II: JStreet statement.