Put aside, if you will, just for a moment, both the substance and process elements of the West Bank settlements question, and focus on the timing.
With the political future of Iraq hanging in the balance, was there ever a less opportune moment for the US to enrage (or secretly delight) its foes and dismay its friends throughout the Arab world? Wasn’t Bush’s backing of Sharon’s plan a gift to Moqtada al Sadr and the insurgents of Fallujah?
If Sharon wants us to win in Iraq, why couldn’t he wait a couple of months, or even a couple of weeks, before putting the squeeze on Bush?
Update Matt Yglesias thinks that Sharon doesn’t want a democratic Iraq, because a democratic Iraq would still be anti-Israeli and would, because it was democratic, have more legitimacy. Fair enough. But having the United States defeated and humiliated in Iraq cannot be good for Israel in the long run. So this still seems to me a lousy time for the West Bank initiative (and the Rantisi hit). What surprises me is that the Bush foreign policy team either (1) didn’t see the likely blowback coming, or didn’t see it as worth worrying about or (2) didn’t have enough clout with Sharon to get him to cool his jets.