IF Israel's total lack of respect for the United States government had not already been clear enough, yesterday's news of plans for 1'000 more homes in East Jerusalem and 800 more at Ariel in the West Bank should have left no doubt in anyone's mind that the present Israeli government is a law unto itself. Both these plans are illegal in international eyes but there is nothing new in that. It was the timing of the news that seemed so deliberately provocative and unhelpful as America struggles to get peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians back on track. Prime Minister Netanyahu is in New York this week for the annual convention of the Jewish Federations of North America whose members he will doubtless urge to maintain their influential political and generous financial support for Israel.
The State Department's response to the news of these new settlements was to express deep disappointment about what it described as being counter-productive to our efforts to resume direct negotiations. But will Secretary of State Hillary Clinton go beyond such diplomatic language when she meets Mr Netanyahu later this week and warn him that Israel cannot expect the United States to continue to tolerate Israel's deliberately unhelpful position without considering what counter-action might be appropriate? There are many ways in which America can make life difficult for Israel and the time to apply some of them has surely arrived.