If there is a simple key to what has happened, and what is likely to happen as a result of the dust up surrounding building in Jerusalem and the visit of Vice President Biden, it is a lack of trust.
It is hard to find a serious Israeli commentator who expresses trust of the wisdom of the American administration or its posture vis a vis Israel. Public opinion surveys of Israeli Jews parallel that lack of trust.
Israeli Jews do not trust Israeli Arabs or Palestinians. The violence since 2000 and in response to the withdrawal from Gaza has done its work to reinforce this lack of trust that has older roots.
Palestinians and Israeli Arabs do not trust Israeli Jews; and Palestinians and Israeli Arabs do not trust one another. Israeli Arabs show no interest in becoming citizens of Palestine. Casual suggestions to give Palestine the Arab neighborhoods of Jerusalem naively avoid the issue of referenda in those neighborhoods.
Secular Palestinians do not trust religious Palestinians, Christians and Muslims do not trust one another, and those with Fatah loyalties do not trust those with Hamas. Serious violence occurred between Fatah and Hamas in Gaza. Members of one extended family do not trust those of other families. Bloody feuds erupt from time to time among Israeli Arabs and Palestinians. The notion of a Palestinian "nation" is a considerable exaggeration.
Israeli Arabs and Palestinians look ritualistically to others to press the Israelis, but there is not a lot of trust among them directed at Americans or other Arabs.
And who trusts Palestinians? Not many Americans, according to Gallup. Or elites in other Arab countries. Think of the Palestinians as the Jews of the Arab world.
Israelis to the right and left of center do not trust one another. Neither the settlers and their friends, nor the anarchists and other persistent advocates of Palestinians rights are widely popular in the large Jewish center of the spectrum. There is little trust between secular Israeli Jews and the Orthodox and ultra-Orthodox, both on issues that are internal to the Jewish communities and those that spill over to matters of land and peace.
"Bibi? I don't believe him" was the centerpiece in Tzipi Livni's 2009 election campaign. Her Kadima Party received more votes and Knesset seats than Netanyahu's Likud, but she did not have the allies to form a coalition. Since the election she may have been too quiet in order to preserve her political base. Her party rival, Shaul Mofaz, is finding support among Kadima activists who do not trust Livni to do what is necessary to become prime minister.
People in and around the White House would sign on to Tzipi's slogan. They are probably quoting Bill Clinton, "Who the f--- does he think he is?"
Do Israeli and overseas Jews trust one another?
This is a sensitive question with no clear answer. Probably not as much as they used to. It is common to say that the Lebanon war of 1982 was the watershed, i.e., Israel's first "war of choice" in the eyes of those who opposed it.
Leaving aside what may be the majority of overseas Jews who are apathetic or uninformed about Israeli issues, there are parallel conflicts with the issues that separate Israeli Jews. Diaspora Jews argue about land and peace, settlements, and religion. There is a conflict over Orthodox and non-Orthodox Judaism that overseas Jews try without much success to implant in Israel.
Good signs are the economic development and the spurt of peace that has marked the last few years in the West Bank. Israel's economy is doing better than many others. The shekel has performed well in relation to the dollar and the Euro.
If foreign politicians will keep quiet and pursue the advancement of their reputations elsewhere, the good times in Israel and Palestine (West Bank) may develop further.
But I do not trust my moments of optimism. There are enough fanatics among Palestinians, Israelis, and others wanting to promote themselves, their ideology or theology, willing to destroy the good for their view of Paradise, peace, democracy, or whatever.
Ira Sharkansky (Emeritus)
Department of Political Science
Hebrew University of Jerusalem