TEL AVIV, Israel -- The announcement that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu plans to approve the construction of more housing for Jewish settlers in the West Bank was interpreted by many Western observers as a snub, in light of Washington's demands for a settlement freeze. In Israel, however, some see Netanyahu's move not as a rebuff of American policies, but quite the opposite: a sign that Netanyahu is preparing to give in to pressure from the United States and work with U.S. President Barack Obama.
Netanyahu's decision to approve construction of 455 new settler homes sparked criticism from the Obama administration, the European Union and Arab leaders. After all, from the earliest days of the Obama administration, the U.S. has made a settlement freeze a keystone of its plan for Middle East peace, giving the issue a higher profile than just about any other aspect of the president's vision for Arab-Israeli reconciliation. Authorizing new construction seemed like a blunt rejection of those efforts.
Not everyone in Israel sees it that way, though, especially not the settlers.