The announcement that Israel is proceeding with the construction of Jewish housing in east Jerusalem is not just a matter of “poor timing” or even of “poor taste.” Such construction goes to the very heart of any potential two-state solution.
The outlines of such a solution are well known; it would be similar to the offer made by then Prime Minister Barak, with the blessing of the Clinton administration and rejected by then President Arafat. A key provision was the establishment of east Jerusalem as the capital of the Palestinian state. Jewish housing construction in east Jerusalem signals rather clearly that the Netanyahu government intends to keep Jerusalem as the undivided capital of Israel. If that is the case, there is no point in having the two sides negotiate (even indirectly).
For years the Israelis complained, justly, that under Arafat they had no “partner for peace.” Now, in President Abbas the head of the PLO appears to be relatively moderate, not encouraging violence, and interested in improving the lot of Palestinians. How ironic (and tragic) that it is President Abbas who could justly complain that he “has no partner for peace.”
I believe that the only hope for Israel is to settle its dispute with the Palestinians and the only hope for such a settlement is a two-state solution. It’s that simple. Constructing Jewish housing in east Jerusalem will scuttle any chance of peace.