President Obama is ramping up his one-sided pressure on Israel in his quest to achieve a middle-east peace plan that will be detrimental to the Jewish State. The Palestinian-leaning POTUS’ latest threat is that if Netanyahu doesn’t cave on the settlement issue, Obama will not be his friend. As reported by Politico:
Both sides said that the U.S. and Israel are near an agreement on a halt to expanding Israeli settlements on disputed territory. If Netanyahu approves, U.S. officials said, it could reopen direct negotiations between Israeli and Palestinian leaders on Middle East peace for the first time since before Israeli’s invasion of Gaza last winter.
But the Israeli premier and the American president have gotten off on uncertain footing, with neither proving willing to make early compromises as the other expected. The relationship is important to both leaders’ domestic politics, and now U.S. officials say the settlement negotiations give Netanyahu a way to show he’s committed to the Middle East peace process.
“Netanyahu’s at a pivotal moment,” said a senior U.S. official. “Depending on what he decides, he could wind up with a very strong relationship with President Obama and potentially become a historic figure in Israel.”
“It could very well hinge on what he decides in the next couple of weeks,” said the official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity.
Another senior U.S. official held out a similar carrot for Netanyahu: This moment offers the opportunity to “forge a very important and positive relationship between Netanyahu and the president,” the official said.
Netanyahu spokesman Ron Dermer declined to comment on the Americans’ characterization, but Israel has been reluctant to cast settlements as a central question in the peace process, and another senior Israeli government official downplayed the importance of a deal this month.
The White House, however, is eager for its first diplomatic breakthrough in the Middle East, and the intense focus on the conservative Israeli leader comes as Israeli negotiators hold a new round of meetings in the United States.
Netanyahu envoy Yitzhak Molcho and Israeli Defense Ministry Chief of Staff Michael Herzog met White House officials, including National Security Council senior directors Dennis Ross and Dan Shapiro, in Washington Tuesday. They’re scheduled meet Special Envoy George Mitchell and his team in New York Wednesday.
Mitchell plans to return to the region next week, and officials are tentatively planning a meeting on the sidelines of the U.N. General Assembly later this month between Obama, Netanyahu, and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas.
“President Obama will chair it, and I think that at least there is a chance that they will decide they are going to reopen negotiations,” Israeli President Shimon Peres told Fox News Monday, though U.S., Israeli, and Palestinian officials all said that plans for a trilateral meeting will depend on the outcome of the talks between the U.S. and Israel.
“There hasn’t been any official invitation,” said Maen Areikat, the chief of the Palestinian mission to Washington.
The American focus, for the present, is Netanyahu. Officials on both sides familiar with the talks said that the American and Israeli sides appear close to compromise on two crucial issues: The U.S. may agree to let Israel complete the construction of buildings that are already under way in the disputed territories; and Israel — which has refused to include disputed Jerusalem neighborhoods in the settlement talks — appears willing to forswear evictions and demolitions in the Palestinian parts of Jerusalem.
“The Israelis have asked for us to let them finish existing construction,” said the U.S. official. “We’ve made clear that we need some commitments on evictions and demolitions in Jerusalem.”
One outstanding issue, another person familiar with the talks said: What happens if talks fail. Israel would like a formal acknowledgment that it can resume building if, after six or nine months, talks have fallen apart. The U.S. side says it won’t offer formal sanction to settlements that it has always opposed.
You may have noticed that Obama is pushing for Israel to make concessions and has asked nothing of the Palestinians. Less than a month ago the ruling Fatah party had a convention calling for a continuation of terrorism and promising never to recognize Israel. In other words Israel has accepted a two state solution, but the Palestinians have not.
In the end, seeing how Barack Obama has thrown “friends” like Gordon Brown, and Nicolas Sarkozy under the bus, maybe having a close relationship with the present POTUS is no great prize.