US rejects an Israeli demand

Discussion in 'Politics' started by OPTIONAL777, Apr 21, 2009.

  1. (...It is about damn time...)

    US rejects an Israeli demand

    Paul Woodward, Online Correspondent

    * Last Updated: April 20. 2009 9:47AM UAE / April 20. 2009 5:47AM GMT

    Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu told the US Middle East envoy George Mitchell on Thursday that his government would condition talks over Palestinian statehood on the Palestinians first recognising Israel as a Jewish state.

    "Israel expects the Palestinians to first recognise Israel as a Jewish state before talking about two states for two peoples," a senior official in Mr Netanyahu's office quoted the new prime minister as saying. Statements from the US State Department indicated that the Obama administration regards such an Israeli condition as unacceptable, saying that the United States would continue to promote a two-state solution.

    Haaretz also reported: "Mitchell's talks also seem to indicate that the United States does not accept Netanyahu's position that the renewal of negotiations should be postponed until the Iranian nuclear threat is removed."

    The Jerusalem Post said: "Chief Palestinian Authority negotiator Saeb Erekat said that the demand to recognise Israel as a Jewish state was 'an admission by the Israeli prime minister that he cannot deliver on peace.' Erekat pointed out that the PLO had already recognised Israel's right to exist when it signed the Oslo Accords, while Netanyahu was refusing to mention a Palestinian state." Israeli ministers have with increasing frequency taken to referring to a "Palestinian entity" rather than a Palestinian state.

    The Jerusalem Post also reported: "Ministers from Shas and within Netanyahu's own Likud Party asserted - almost simultaneously with Mitchell's statements - that they were categorically opposed to a Palestinian state.

    " 'The preferable course of diplomatic action at this time is two economies for two peoples and not two states for two peoples,' Interior Minister Eli Yishai told Army Radio. 'The American emissary also knows that forcing the region into virtual diplomatic discourse will only breed the opposite results.'

    "Transportation Minister Yisrael Katz, a longtime Likud Member of the Knesset, also entered the fray, telling Israel Radio that agreements reached between former prime minister Ehud Olmert and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas at the Annapolis Peace Conference in November 2007 were obsolete.

    "His remarks were a near word-for-word repetition of a statement made at the beginning of the month by Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman, which made diplomatic waves with both the US and European Union."

    Kadima MK Tzahi Hanegbi said: "All [Netanyahu] has to do is continue dialogue with the Palestinians... He has a lot of experience with the Americans, including senators and congressman, and the American media.

    "My guess is that we won't see anything very dramatic for at least the next two years, and I don't believe that we'll see any dramatic changes to the previous progress made by previous governments."

    Yedioth Achronoth quoted Rahm Emanuel, President Obama's chief of staff, as having told an unnamed Jewish leader: "In the next four years there is going to be a permanent status arrangement between Israel and the Palestinians on the basis of two states for two peoples, and it doesn't matter to us at all who is prime minister."

    He also said: "Any treatment of the Iranian nuclear problem will be contingent upon progress in the negotiations and an Israeli withdrawal from West Bank territory."

    The nature of this linkage between the Iranian and Palestinian issues is far from clear. Amos Harel in Haaretz took this to mean: "United States is hinting that its willingness to attack Iran (or permit Israel to do so) will be directly related to the Netanyahu government's flexibility on issues such as evacuating settlements, pullbacks from the West Bank and progress on a peace accord with the Palestinian Authority."

    All that is clear is that Washington is signaling that the US no longer intends to march in lockstep with its closest Middle East ally.

    An upcoming conference of the powerful pro-Israel lobby Aipac (the American Israel Public Affairs Committee) in May will not serve as it has in recent years as a showcase for Israeli-US unity. Mr Obama has informed that he will not be 'in town' at that time and since Mr Netanyahu will not be able combine an Aipac appearance with a prestigious White House meeting, he has asked Israeli president Shimon Peres to attend instead.

    Yedioth reported: "The meeting between the new Israeli premier and the president of the United States is perceived in Israel as a sign that the formation process of the new government has been completed and as a salutation by Israel's close friend...

    "Sources in Washington also said that the Obama administration would not continue the tradition that developed during the Bush administration of hosting Israeli premiers many times during the year, sometimes with just a phone call's advance notice."

    Both reflecting and helping steer the changing mood in Washington in its approach to Israel, the lobbying efforts of Aipac now face a challenge from the left.

    The Washington Post reported: "When a group of Jewish liberals formed a lobbying and fundraising group called J Street a year ago, they had modest hopes of raising $50,000 for a handful of congressional candidates.

    "Instead, the group's political arm ended up funneling nearly $600,000 to several dozen Democrats and a handful of Republicans in 2008, making it Washington's leading pro-Israel political action committee, according to Federal Election Commission expenditure records. Organisers say 33 of the group's 41 favoured House and Senate candidates won their races.

    " 'It certainly exceeded our expectations,' said Jeremy Ben-Ami, J Street's executive director. 'We didn't know what level of success we would have. But we think this is a message whose moment has come.'

    "Riding alongside the ascent of President Obama and other liberal Democrats, J Street blends old-style politicking with a media-savvy approach aimed at altering the US political debate over Israel and other Middle East issues."

    The Daily Telegraph said: "For the past 25 years, the influential and hawkish American Israel Public Affairs Committee (Aipac) has helped thwart every US presidential effort to deliver Middle East peace on terms it was unhappy with. The lobby's legendary stranglehold over US foreign policy is now receding with the rise of J Street, which describes itself as the 'political arm of the pro-Israel, pro-peace movement'.

    "Jeremy Ben-Ami... said: 'We want to give a voice to the majority of the American Jewish community that is liberal and open and isn't supportive of settlements, opposed the Iraq war and isn't keen on a war with Iran.'

    "J Street recently released a YouTube video, complete with threatening sound effects, which condemned the 'incendiary and racist' campaigning tactics of Israel's new foreign minister, Avigdor Lieberman. Even activists were stunned by the boldness of the attack."