Goldblog missed this part

Jeffrey Goldberg today:

So what explains this incredible series of [diplomatic] screw-ups? Is this merely an attempt by the Israeli government to disprove the theory, shared by anti- and philo-Semites alike, that Jews are smart?

No, it’s something very prosaic. Bibi Netanyahu is not in control of his government. He has brought into his coalition parties — Lieberman’s party, the Shas Party — that are narrow-focused, excessively-rightist, stubborn and prideful, and now he’s paying the price. The problem is that Israel is paying the price as well. America can afford stupid politicians. Israel can’t.

Yossi Klein Halevi, in a TNR article linked to by Jeffrey Goldberg today:

But not even the opposition accused Netanyahu of a deliberate provocation. These are not the days of Yitzhak Shamir, the former Israeli prime minister who used to greet a visit from Secretary of State James Baker with an announcement of the creation of another West Bank settlement. Netanyahu has placed the need for strategic cooperation with the U.S. on the Iranian threat ahead of the right-wing political agenda. That’s why he included the Labor Party into his coalition, and why he accepted a two-state solution—an historic achievement that set the Likud, however reluctantly, within the mainstream consensus supporting Palestinian statehood. The last thing Netanyahu wanted was to embarrass Biden during his goodwill visit and trigger a clash with Obama over an ultra-Orthodox neighborhood.

Nor is it likely that there was a deliberate provocation from the ultra-Orthodox Shas party, which runs the interior ministry that oversees building procedures. Shas, which supports peace talks and territorial compromise, is not a nationalist party. Its interest is providing housing for its constituents, like the future residents of Ramat Shlomo; provoking international incidents is not its style.

Finally, the very ordinariness of the building procedure—the fact that construction in Jewish East Jerusalem is considered by Israelis routine—is perhaps the best proof that there was no intentional ambush of Biden.

Apparently no one in the interior ministry could imagine that a long-term plan over Ramat Shlomo would sabotage a state visit.

In turning an incident into a crisis, Obama has convinced many Israelis that he was merely seeking a pretext to pick a fight with Israel. Netanyahu was inadvertently shabby; Obama, deliberately so.

According to a banner headline in the newspaper Ma’ariv, senior Likud officials believe that Obama’s goal is to topple the Netanyahu government, by encouraging those in the Labor Party who want to quit the coalition.

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