Speaking before the AIPAC conference on Monday in Washington, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton made it crystal clear that the US intends to keep pressing Israel to do more to advance what it believes are Israeli, American and Palestinian interests.

She stressed her country’s “rock-solid” commitment to Israel’s security, she even singled out for censure Palestinian incitement, but she also focused heavily on Israeli building beyond the pre-1967 lines, reiterating not only “that the United States does not accept the legitimacy of continued Israeli settlements,” but that “new construction in east Jerusalem… undermines mutual trust and endangers the proximity talks that are the first step toward the full negotiations that both sides want and need.”

Strikingly, she restated that opposition to Jewish building in east Jerusalem immediately after AIPAC’s executive director, Howard Kohr, had declared from the same podium that “Jerusalem is not a settlement. Jerusalem is the capital of Israel.”

Back home, meanwhile, there has been a worrying deterioration in the security situation. Unrest that began last week in Jerusalem was followed, in turn, by renewed Kassam missile attacks in the south and violence that left four Palestinians dead on the West Bank. Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas added to the tension Monday by declaring that the Palestinian people had a right to resistance against occupation.

It’s hard to escape the conclusion that the new spurt of violence is connected, at least in part, to the Obama administration’s deliberately reignited public criticism of Israel for the Ramat Shlomo blunder. And we are concerned that disproportionate ongoing criticism, especially in the absence of markedly increased US pressure on the PA and the Arab world toward normalization with Israel, can only further embolden intransigence and violence.

THE FIRST casualty of the current violence was a Thai man working in a greenhouse in the Netiv Ha’asara area near the Gaza Strip, killed Thursday by a Kassam rocket. Hamas had largely held its fire as it attempted to regroup after last year’s Operation Cast Lead. A previously unknown al-Qaida-inspired organization took responsibility for the attack, which led to a retaliatory IAF attack on Friday morning and then more Kassams.

In the West Bank on Saturday, two cousins, Mohammed Qadus and Osayad Qadus, were among rock-throwing protesters in Burin who were shot by IDF troops, later dying of their wounds.

On Sunday, 100 Palestinians clashed with security forces near Tekoa, while that same afternoon, two Palestinians were killed after allegedly attacking IDF soldiers with sharp objects at a checkpoint southwest of Nablus.

Several factors may have contributed to this new wave of violence. Iran, for one, has an interest in diverting attention away from its nuclear weapons efforts by getting the Quartet and the UN to focus on Israel. Hamas, while perhaps still interested in quiet in Gaza, mobilized Palestinians in the West Bank last week around the Ramat Shlomo dispute and would dearly like to expand its West Bank influence.

True, PA security forces, trained under the auspices of Lt.-Gen. Keith Dayton, head of the US’s Security Coordinators Team in Israel and the West Bank, are stationed to prevent such a scenario. But cracks may be forming in Abbas’s Fatah.

According to the Jordan Times, some 2,000 trained and armed Fatah defectors have joined Hizbullah in Lebanon to protest what it called the PA’s “impotence, corruption and total disregard for their people’s interest.” The paper estimated that this would strengthen the hand of “intifada hardliners” on the West Bank and Gaza.

Amid such upheaval, the Obama administration’s sharp condemnation of Israel is not helping.

First, it actually pushes Abbas away from the peace table. After all, when America is demanding a freeze in east Jerusalem, Abbas need hardly show greater flexibility.

Second, with its US allies suggesting that Israel is being provocative and intransigent, extremists may reason that their use of violence will gain greater international indulgence.

In her lengthy address, Clinton was right to note that any “daylight between Israel and the United States” is exploited by others in the region to further their own goals.

All the more reason to resolve the differences quietly, calmly and quickly, and move ahead toward pressing the hitherto inflexible Palestinians and the wider Arab world toward the viable compromises in which Israel and the US have so manifestly a shared interest.

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