Today, amidst the swirling chaos Israeli Industry and Trade Minister Binyamin Ben-Eliezer warned on Israel Radio, "What we have here is a madman, and crazy people can do only crazy things. The Americans... must see how they can create a reality in which they stop the madman."
Yes, how will America stop the madman?
Ahmadinejad isn’t President Obama’s immediate concern though. The Palestinian Authority’s approval for “indirection negotiations” over the weekend, despite Israel’s aggressive attitude, signaled that Obama could walk on them. Naturally Israel interpreted this as being able to walk on Obama.
Hours before Vice President Biden landed in Jerusalem, as the Haaretz records, “Cracks appeared in the government-imposed freeze on West Bank settlement on Monday building after Defense Minister Ehud Barak approved new construction on 112 new units in the Beitar Ilit settlement, four miles from Jerusalem.”
But cracks have already appeared. Even the latest 600 units in East Jerusalem didn’t void the contract Israel signed with itself. Its latest green light takes a hammer to its “self-imposed freeze” - and to Obama’s crumbling illusion of progress.
"If the Israeli government wants to sabotage Mitchell's efforts by taking such steps, let's talk to Mitchell about maybe not doing this (indirect talks) if the price is so high," said Saeb Erekat, lead Palestinian negotiator, on Monday morning.
And still Israel complains about not getting its way on Iran. One official close to Netanyahu expressed "disappointment" over current UN sanctions, complaining, “This is not what we've been promised.”
Israel, far more audacious than Obama, must consider him as weak as the Palestinians.
Gilad Erdan, the Israeli environment minister, called the project “an exception” and played down a reaction from Washington, saying, “Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Vice President Joe Biden know that the key is that the Prime Minister is ready at any moment to engage in direct negotiations.”
Numerous officials have made remarks of a similar nature, expressing disapproval at “indirect negotiations” as if final-status negotiations would get farther than the starting block. Israel can’t go one week without provoking the Palestinians. It’s showing no respect and no interest in Obama’s “indirection negotiations.”
And for good reason. The White House fell silent over the weekend, off days for the media as usual, but weekends would be no obstacle if the process were that important. Apparently Obama believes now is a bad time to call out Israel as he promised, preferring to wait until his four months end.
He won’t last four months if he’s not prepared to say something immediately.
"The relationship has deteriorated to this stage where the U.S. is trying to save this peace process with the last attempt - by the way, mark my words - this will be the last attempt in order to see if it can be a tool to make decisions between Palestinians and Israelis," Erekat told Army Radio.
The White House must confront Israel on its behavior right now, both the settlement activity and its claim to religious sites in Jerusalem, or Biden might as well get right back in his jet and go home after he finishes dining with Netanyahu.
Biden’s visit bears no significance to the Palestinians, his job is to sell Obama to the Israeli people. No matter how skeptical they are, they can never be matched by the Palestinians, who shouldn’t hang around to watch the “exceptions” pile up. Drawing Obama into a trap was a wise plan, but he’s already trapped. There’s no real need to wait longer.
"If the price that we will pay for saying 'yes' to Mitchell will be more settlements and more incursions and more dictations, that's a big question mark about the possibility of continuing," said Erekat.
Putting stress on America and Israel's relationship could make them break the process instead.