Are they crazy!!??

This is what people say. here in Israel, if they disagree with somebody else’s proposition: “Are they crazy!!??”

According to an article by Aluf Benn published in Haaretz today, “confidants” and “aides” of Prime Minister Netanyahu said that “Netanyahu believes that U.S. President Barack Obama wants a confrontation with Israel, based on Obama’s speech in Cairo last week … In Netanyahu’s opinion, the Americans believe an open controversy with Israel would serve the Obama administration’s main objective of improving U.S. relations with the Arab world”.

Really, this is too much. After all that Obama said, in his 4 June speech in Cairo! “America’s strong bonds with Israel are well known. This bond is unbreakable”, Obama said. No one can seriously think that Obama is favoring the Arab world over Israel.

No, this appears to be a manipulative attempt to bully George Mitchell and Barack Obama into backing down in the increasingly confusing confrontation over Israel’s continued settlement activities in the West Bank — which Netanyahu and a number of his appointed government ministers have said they have every intention of continuing.

Aluf Benn’s article also reported that “Netanyahu objects to a complete suspension of construction beyond the Green Line. This is Netanyahu’s main bone of contention with the Obama administration. Netanyahu expects Obama to present his plan for peace in the Middle East next month. He fears that the president will present positions that will not be easy for Israel to accept, such as a demand to withdraw to the lines of June 4, 1967. These lines, before the Six-Day War, are at the basis of both the Arab peace initiative and previous American presidents’ peace forays. By telephone yesterday, Netanyahu told Obama of his intention to give a key policy speech on Sunday, in which he would outline his policy to achieve peace and security …
Political sources close to Netanyahu say that White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel and Obama’s senior political consultant David Axelrod are behind the clash between the administration and Israel. Israel historically has depended on the White House to balance the consensus of officials in the state and defense departments; this consensus usually leans toward the Arab side. Israeli officials say that under Obama, the White House has become the main problem in relations. Israel is also having difficulty mustering the support of Congress and the American Jewish community for its demand to continue expanding the settlements. Defense Minister Ehud Barak, who visited Washington last week, says the Obama administration has no personal problem with Netanyahu and that the Americans do not not seek to undermine the Israeli coalition and topple the government. Barak says Obama’s positions are guided by strategic considerations – he has undertaken to withdraw from Iraq and is striving to end the war in Afghanistan and needs the moderate Arab states’ support. This, rather than ‘political persecution’, is behind the administration’s attitude toward Israel, he says”. This article can be found strong>here.

This morning, in a meeting with Israel’s State President Shimon Peres, Mitchell said [according to a Foreign Press Association (FPA) pool report written by an AFP reporter]: “The president and the secretary of state have made our policy clear. Israelis and Palestinians have a responsibility to meet their obligations under the roadmap. It’s not just their responsibility. We believe it’s in their security interest as well … And we all share an obligation to create the conditions for the prompt resumption and early conclusion of negotiations”.

Peres didn’t disagree — but there hasn’t been much light shining between his position and that of Netanyahu lately (ever since Peres asked Netanyahu to form a government in the wake of the close results in February 10 elections). In fact, Peres has been accused of doing public relations work for Netanyahu.

According to another FPA pool report by AFP, Peres said at the meeting with Mitchell this morning: “I really think, without exaggeration that we are at a historic occasion… and all of us would never forgive ourselves if we should miss it … I believe that the address by President Obama created a change in the Middle East. I can not recall any other event in recent history that left … such a feeling of elation, I think the address was extremely sensitive, touching, concerning all sides without trying to play one against the other, paying compliments when it was justified, criticising when it was necessary in the most honest way … I think we have to take the bull by the horn. I see four points which are really of great importance and that is the state solutions, as it is written in the roadmap, a state for us and a state for the Palestinians; the second is the security of Israel; the third the independence of the Palestinians; and the fourth is a chance to build upon it or with it a regional peace. All people desire it”. Peres did not mention settlements…

In an article circulated this morning, Alon Ben-Meir (a senior fellow at New York University’s School of Global Affairs, who says he has been “directly involved in various negotiations”, and whose articles are syndicated by UPI) wrote that: “It seems unlikely that President Obama will settle for less than a ‘moratorium’ on further expansion. Changing the semantics from a freeze to a temporary moratorium could initially provide some maneuvering room to agree on a workable formula. A temporary moratorium would mean a halt on the expansion of all settlements and settlement related activity during a set negotiating process, likely between three to six months. This might well work if it were done with the understanding that Israel and the Palestinians would enter immediately into negotiations with direct and active American involvement to determine the future borders of the two states. Once the borders have been agreed upon, Israel can expand settlement activity within them and will be prohibited from any development outside these borders. Whether the objective of the negotiations from Netanyahu’s perspective would be a Palestinian state or not, he has already conceded as much when he stated that the Palestinians have the right to self-rule living side by side Israel in peace. Netanyahu may be able to sell the moratorium idea to his centre-right coalition partners because the alternative will be a direct confrontation with the United States, which could bring his government down. This may explain his likely change of heart, especially when recent polls show a majority of Israelis support the freeze. During these negotiations, Israelis and Palestinians can agree within a few months as to which of the settlements will be incorporated into Israel proper under a peace agreement, and what contiguous land of equal size and quality can be swapped with the Palestinians in its place, which should be enforced under American monitoring. The two sides have negotiated in the past (at Camp David and in Taba in 2000-2001) and agreed in principle about the status of these settlements. Although the Palestinian Authority will want all issues on the table to reach a final status agreement-including the Palestinian refugees and Jerusalem-it appears that they are willing to discuss borders first once Israel accepts the moratorium. Mahmoud Abbas, along with Jordan’s King Abdullah has publicly agreed that borders would be the first order of business”.

While Abbas may be willing to discuss borders and other final status issues right away — once he agrees to resume negotiations that were called off during the IDF’s Operation Cast Lead against Gaza — he has until this very moment been utterly and totally opposed to any interim or temporary anything, including borders.

And, meanwhile, Israel’s YNet reported today that “US officials assured Defense Minister Ehud Barak during the latter’s visit to Washington that the Obama administration is not trying to topple Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government. Barak discussed this with Netanyahu in his meeting with the Prime Minister on Friday following the former’s return from Washington … Meanwhile, the American Embassy in Tel Aviv said that Senator Mitchell denied ever having said that ‘Israel has been lying on the US for the past years’, and that ‘it’s time to stop this’. According to media reports, Mitchell made the statement during a meeting with a prominent Jewish official in Washington”. This report can be read in full here.

All of this craziness must mean that we are heading either for a breakdown, or for a breakthrough.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *