It is one of the international community's favorite adjectives to hurl at Israel. Time and again, whenever the Jewish state takes some action of one sort or another, a parade of world leaders turns to their lexicons and reaches for this old, reliable term of censure with which to berate us.
With little regard for the facts, they inevitably seek to lay the blame at Israel's doorstep by invoking one particular slur.
It is the 'P' word, as in "provocative" or "provocation."
Just last week, this prejudicial profanity was repeatedly flung at Israel in the wake of the Interior Ministry's decision to grant initial approval for 1,100 new housing units in the southern Jerusalem neighborhood of Gilo.
Barely had the gavel come down on the ruling before the leaders of the Free World rushed to outdo one another with their condemnation and criticism.
Calling the move "counter-productive," US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton told a news conference, "we have long urged both sides to avoid any kind of action which could undermine trust, including, and perhaps most particularly, in Jerusalem, any action that could be viewed as provocative" – there's that word – "by either side".
Going a step further, British Foreign Secretary William Hague called the move "illegal" and said, "This is a time when all parties should be striving to return to talks and responding to the Quartet statement call to refrain from" – here it comes… – "provocative actions."
It didn't seem to matter one whit that the approval of the Gilo proposal was just one small step in a lengthy bureaucratic process and that the bulldozers won't be starting work any time soon. The mere idea of Jewish homes being built in Jerusalem appears to be sufficient to evoke anger across the globe.
Clearly, both Clinton and Hague are suffering from "selective provocation syndrome," which is when one deems Israel's actions to be provocative while ignoring similar moves by the Palestinians.
Consider the following. According to data compiled by Peace Now, since the government ended the building freeze on Jewish construction in Judea and Samaria last October, there have been a grand total of just 2,598 buildings started.
It is this small number of new Jewish homes in the territories that has the critics up in arms.
They claim that by expanding Jewish communities in Judea and Samaria, Israel is prejudicing the outcome of any final-status negotiations.
And yet, when it comes to Palestinian efforts to create facts on the ground, these very same critics inexplicably fall silent.
Indeed, this past Sunday, the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics (PCBS) released data indicating that the number of Palestinian homes in Judea, Samaria and Gaza has soared by over 25% in the past four years.
This year alone, the Palestinians will build more housing units than Israel did in all of last year, even though our population is more than three times the size of theirs.
According to the PCBS, in 2011 the Palestinians will finish a whopping 33,822 dwellings, or 13 times the number currently being built by Jews in Judea and Samaria.
There is no doubt that this feverish building activity by the Palestinians will have an enormous impact on the ground, greatly expanding their presence in the "disputed" territories.
So why, then, is this too not regarded as a "provocation" that undermines peace efforts? Or is it only when Jews lay down cement that construction suddenly becomes confrontational? I guess not all "provocations" are created equal.
The fact is that it is neither logical nor fair to expect Israel to freeze building in Judea and Samaria or anywhere else while the Palestinians are busy at work.
If the Palestinians feel free to alter the situation on the ground then there is no reason why Israel should not be able to do the same.
The real provocation is not the expansion of a porch in Ma'aleh Adumim, the addition of an attic in Efrat or even the erection of a garden apartment in Gilo. It is when foreign leaders interfere in Israel's internal affairs and seek to dictate to the Jewish state where, when and what it can build.
This one-sided stance reeks of hypocrisy, holding Israel to a standard that is not applied to its foes.
There is a struggle going on for control of this land and it is being fought in various ways, one of which is through the use of cranes and dump-trucks.
Israel has the right and the responsibility to deploy these instruments as it sees fit.
So let Clinton, Hague and the others complain all they wish. The rebuilding of the Jewish homeland can and will continue.