VP Joe Biden had the good sense to respond to the news that the Israel Interior Ministry approved 1600 new housing units in northeastern Jerusalem. He said the move "undermines trust," and reacted with a firm but diplomatic press statement. He deserves credit for taking the moral high road in an incident which is something of a diplomatic slap in the face. It's not so much that Interior Minister Eli Yishai and PM Netanyahu are being purposefully antagonistic. They just don't get it.
Does it not occur to the Israeli Minister of the Interior that approving new settlements while the VP of the United States is in the country might be a bad idea? Would the House Foreign Affairs Committee in the U.S. have passed the bill on Armenian genocide during a visit by PM Erdogan of Turkey? Ignorance of the approval is absolutely no excuse. The Minister should have been well aware of the activities of his own ministry. This action is yet another faux pas in the current government's total lack of diplomatic sensibility, from Sweden, to Turkey, to Syria, to the J Street delegation. The Vice President of Israel's best ally came to repair a damaged relationship, reiterated the U.S.' support for Israel, and urged progress on Iran. Israel got everything it could have asked for from this trip. And didn't even have the diplomatic sense to wait until after the Vice President had left before approving the housing units. Or better yet, to negotiate over them in the talks with the Palestininians which Israel committed itself to hours before.
It is absolutely heartbreaking to see this kind of arrogance, delusion, and complete lack of competence from the current Israeli leadership. When it comes to foreign policy, this government has consistently been an absolute circus. Their inability to show respect towards the Vice President harms the achievement of Israel's foreign policy objectives. And it prevents the Israeli people from acheiving the strong U.S.-Israel relationship, peace negotiations, and security which they deserve. This spate of events is to the detriment of the honest and well-meaning employees of Israel's ministries, its liberal democratic system, and its people. They all deserve better than this mishegas.
UPDATE: Burston concurs.