Israeli PM Binyamin Netanyahu has learned that he does not have the support of US Jews, the pro-Israel lobby, or Congress. Not when it comes to settlements.
So Mr Netanyahu looked for an opportunity to change the subject. During an insignificant meeting between his new US ambassador and an American official usually not involved with Israel issues, the Americans raised the subject of Jewish building in East Jerusalem.
No, this is not new. It was Israel’s decision to make a big deal out of this routine protest. It was Mr Netanyahu hoping to change the subject: not settlements, Jerusalem.
American Jews are liberals, but react quite hawkishly to questions about Jerusalem. Congress never supported the settlements, but has passed many resolutions supporting Israel’s claims to Jerusalem.
The problem with Mr Netanyahu’s move is that it was transparent, and he seems to have no exit plan.
Ironically, Israel’s diplomatic strike came just as the Americans were trying to calm things down. Now they have new reason to get mad at Mr Netanyahu.
Special peace envoy George Mitchell will visit next week. In the optimistic scenario, a deal will be struck with the Israelis on a settlement freeze — excluding Jerusalem and allowing some natural growth.
But there’s also a more pessimistic scenario: Mr Mitchell is angry, Mr Mitchell talks publicly about Jerusalem, Mr Mitchell, and later the President, blames Israel for laying obstacles on the road to peace.
Of course, this will not bring peace — just more contention.