The latest strain in U.S.-Israeli relations is a wholly unnecessary one, the product of bad timing, media distortion, and political posturing over an East Jerusalem settlement that should not be controversial. The row erupted March 10 when Israel announced approval of another 1,600 apartments in Ramat Shlomo, an area of northeast Jerusalem annexed by Israel after the 1967 Six-Day War. The settlement dates to 1995, and its mostly Jewish population of 18,000 will surely be recognized as part of Israel in any comprehensive future peace settlement. Indeed, the announcement in June 2008 that some 1,200 apartments would be built in Ramat Shlomo went largely unnoticed. The difference this time was that news broke during Vice President Joe Biden’s recent visit to Israel, and was seized upon by some — including President Obama’s chief adviser David Axelrod — as an “insult” and a new impediment to talks between Israel and the Palestinians. Impediments and setbacks in the Mideast peace process have been commonplace since Israel’s creation in 1948, and have chiefly consisted in the efforts, first by Israel’s Arab neighbors, and later by terrorist organizations including the PLO and Hamas, to destroy Israel. The Israelis have sometimes damaged their own cause through intransigence, including ill-advised settlements in Palestinian areas of the West Bank, but no Israeli government has ever agreed to a freeze on settlements in areas considered an integral part of Israel. Expecting Israel to do so now is unrealistic and unhelpful. Serious differences remain between Israel and the Palestinians, including the status of East Jerusalem, but a lasting peace settlement must be preceded by a cessation of terrorist attacks against Israel, and willingness on both sides to settle for something less than the fullest possible territorial claims. If the Obama administration is serious about brokering peace in the Mideast, it must recognize this “controversy” over a predominantly Jewish neighborhood for the artificial creation it is and turn its attention to underlying issues of security and coexistence.