By Josh Linden
Seemingly right on cue, the Israeli government last week approved the creation of 900 new settlement homes in Gilo, beyond the Green Line in East Jerusalem. After demanding a construction freeze for this very neighborhood, the U.S. administration appears to have been caught unawares. Steve Clemons, senior fellow at the New America Foundation, highlights the press briefing mania with State Department spokesman Ian Kelly.
And we thought brutal Q&As were the exclusive domain of White House press briefings. Yikes. Someone get Mr. Kelly a flak jacket.
Elsewhere in the world of settlement controversy, Matthew Yglesias of the Center for American Progress Action Fund reminds us of a rarely discussed, yet critical dynamic – the possibility that IDF soldiers might mutiny if compelled to evacuate settlements:
"Now that’s not to say that settlement evacuation is impossible. In fact even Bibi Netanyahu’s right-wing government recognizes the need to discipline these soldiers. But the point is that even an Israeli government that was inclined to abandon large numbers of settlements would have practical problems doing so. And those problems get worse the more settlements expand. And they also get worse as religious nationalists gain influence inside the IDF."
This is important, not only because soldiers have refused this sort of order before, but also in the larger context of who holds the strings of power in negotiations. Is it Obama? Netanyahu? Abbas or Hamas? Or could it be the religious, the 10% of the population who, by virtue of the quirks of the Israeli parliamentary system, frequently play way beyond their weight class?
I skirted this issue in a piece on TAPPED, the blog of the American Prospect, by pointing out that the process of coalition building gives "disproportionate power to minority, often right-wing parties, who then assume the role of kingmaker mercenaries." And many of these smaller parties just so happen to be of the religious variety. Just something to keep in mind when everyone predictably pounces on the Obama administration for being ineffectual. All politics is local, after all.