Once again the New York Times demonstrates that they still have no idea how politics works in this part of the world.

In an editorial in today’s on line edition entitled “Shortsighted Thinking on Israeli Settlements” the editors criticize Israel for the government’s decision early this week to publish bids for the construction of more than 1,000 new housing units in East Jerusalem and existing communities in Yehuda & Shomron (or, as they call them, “West Bank settlements”).   Their logic, as expected, is that this act on the part of Israel is “A fresh cause for pessimism about the prospects for successful peace negotiations.”

Given the fact that today Israel will release 26 Palestinian prisoners who are serving sentences for the murder of Israelis and other violent crimes, they had to at least mention this fact and pay lip service to this act of insanity on the part of our government (i.e. releasing murderers even before the peace negotiations begin). 

But this is nothing more than an irritant to their continuing love affair with Palestinian president Abbas and their concern that anything we do that does not fit their preconceived notion of propriety will embarrass him.  They go on to describe this act as one that “unhelpfully embarrasses Mr. Abbas, whose good faith now appears to have been abused and who may find it harder to sell difficult–but-necessary compromises to his people.” 

What good faith are they speaking about?  Were they deaf and blind to Abbas’ comment just one day after our cabinet agreed last week to the prisoner release when he said “When peace comes to the region there will not be even one Jew or Israeli living in the new State of Palestine.”  Does anyone doubt the uproar that would be caused if Prime Minister Netanyahu were to state that when peace comes to the region there will not be even one Arab living in the State of Israel?  The entire region would become an inferno which would touch off riots worldwide.  But Abbas’ commitment to making Palestine “Judenrein” doesn’t at all bother the Times or their ilk.

And what is the Times urging at the end of today’s rebuke of Israel?  That Netanyahu can show his commitment to peace by freezing the construction bids before any construction begins.  No surprise there.

What the Times does not get is that the absence of peace has nothing to do with settlements, borders, where capitals will be or the return of those famous refugees from 1948 that we hear so much about.  Rather the absence of peace can be laid squarely and openly at the feet of the Palestinian leadership who simply don’t want to see their people living in peace with Israel. How else to explain their continued inability to make peace when it is offered under the most generous of circumstances along with their ability to always come up with yet another demand before they are prepared to sit at the table and talk.

Is there hope?  Of course there is hope, there is always hope.  But hope can only stem from an acknowledgement by both parties that the end game is co-existence, sharing of the same land, mutual respect and recognition and a cessation of the conflict.  Sadly one never hears those words from the Times, who editors can only point the finger at Israel.

When I was in high school not too many years after the end of World War II, I had a history teacher by the name of Louis Ellenoff.  He had a favorite way of describing the historical relationship between Germany and France.  He would say that the French believe that if you put a rifle in the hands of a German he instinctively turns west.  Similarly, the Times would have us believe that if Israel is invited to the peace table our government will always shear the legs off that table so that peace does not stand a chance.  But truth be told, it is a pointless exercise, because we don’t ever seem to be able to bring it low enough to satisfy the expectations of the other side.