The U.S. Congress' move to freeze $200 million in aid to the Palestinian Authority is a fitting punishment for Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, who, in his appeal to the United Nations, did not just totally ignore clear American statements, but also reneged on obligations incorporated in the Oslo Accords. The Palestinian leader has, over the past several years, turned into the Arab world's spoiled child, a child accustomed to praise and glorification. The child has now reached a crossroads at which responsible governments are trying to pull him back before he plunges into the abyss.
There is nothing to the Palestinian claim of collective punishment. Any time a government freezes payment to a public body, it is by definition a non-specific punishment. The freezing of U.S. funds is an ongoing move instituted ever since Israel found itself forced to thwart an immediate recognition of a Palestinian state at the U.N.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's speech at the U.N. General Assembly was the culmination of intensive Israeli diplomatic work, which not only thwarted a Palestinian declaration, but also freed the U.S. from having to use its veto on the issue, at least for now.
Since then, the diplomatic winds have started to blow in the opposite direction, and, at least for the time being, stayed the diplomatic tsunami that was threatening to wash over Israel. The moral minority, which unites enlightened nations, has started to understand that the voice coming out of the Arab world now is not calling for peace with Israel, but rather the elimination of Israel, in total contradiction to the U.N. charter.
Some may draw the conclusion that the warnings of an impending diplomatic tsunami were nothing but media hype. I don't buy it. While Israel has managed to divert the stormy waves, nothing has yet been decided, the Palestinian request for recognition is still in effect and the Security Council could still change its spots. What should Israel do? As of now, for a limited time, public opinion understands Israel.
The choice is between continuing to rack up international diplomatic points after many long years of antagonism, or continuing to build in Jerusalem and Judea and Samaria. The latest dilemma forces Israel's friends to balance their positions and rebuke us over Jerusalem, as German Chancellor Angela Merkel did in an angry phone conversation with Netanyahu on Wednesday night. Now is the time for caution. The government is not interested in declaring a second moratorium of settlement construction just to open a window to negotiations with the Palestinians. It can, however, deploy bureaucratic measures to temporarily thwart real estate activity east of the Green Line. There is no value in announcing additional housing units in Gilo, which is a neighborhood of Jerusalem and will stay as such, at precisely the time when the world is bashing Mahmoud Abbas and leaving Israel alone.
As long as the Quartet negotiates with Abbas over the terms of his return to the negotiating table, there is no good reason to give our friends pause to doubt whether Israel is indeed interested in peace with all its heart. Patience is what is needed.