Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Israel gets cool reception

  • Print

TEL AVIV -- Despite American and Israeli efforts to calm down the stormy crisis between them over the continued building in East Jerusalem, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is now skating on very thin ice.

With more details emerging daily, it has become clear that Netanyahu was practically "ambushed" by U.S. President Barack Obama. Snubbed and humiliated by Obama's cool reception at the White House -- no red-carpet treatment, photo-op or joint appearance before the journalists -- Netanyahu became convinced that Israel is now facing a major change in American Middle Eastern policy.

Obama chose a path of compromise between two approaches within his White House senior staff: The national security adviser General James Jones, who supports an "imposed solution"; and the approach of the Middle East envoy, George Mitchell, who prefers direct Israeli-Palestinian negotiations, with the U.S. submitting bridging solutions, "at the appropriate time".

Obama would still have Mitchell shuttle between Jerusalem and Ramallah, but he now wants to know in advance what Israel's position is on 10 issues, four of them relating to Jerusalem. For example, Obama wants Netanyahu to reopen the Palestinian Chamber of Commerce in East Jerusalem, to stop demolishing Arab houses that were built without the required permits and to guarantee in writing no new Jewish building projects in East Jerusalem, including in Ramat Shlomo, that sparked the crisis.

As part of confidence building measures, Obama asked for the release of Palestinian prisoners, removal of additional roadblocks in the West Bank and easing the blockade of the Gaza Strip.

But the most difficult of Obama's demands was the insistence that Israel draws its own perception of its final borders, security and demilitarization and the Palestinian refugees. Israel believes that these subjects should be left to the direct negotiations and not to be imposed. Obama wants to have Israel's answers in Mitchell's pocket, before he resumes his proximity talks between Israel and the Palestinians, some time in April.

In an effort to isolate Israel internationally, Obama briefed French President Nicolas Sarkozy, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and British Prime Minister Gordon Brown, on his demands from Netanyahu and he even sent a copy to the Arab Summit, that ended Sunday two days of deliberations in Libya.

The 22nd summit approved the resumption of Mitchell's shuttle diplomacy, despite Syrian President Bashar Assad's call to abandon the diplomatic effort and to resume the intifada in the West Bank. Assad didn't wait for a response, returning to Damascus without even shaking Abbas' hands. The approval of the league's endorsement of the political channel was with one reservation: That there will be a reassessment of this decision in October. Should the stalemate continue, the Arabs will put an end to Mitchell's mission.

The Arab choice of October is not accidental. By the end of September, Israel is expected to decide whether to extend the 10-month moratorium on settlement building in the West Bank. The U.S., Europe, Russia and the Arab countries want the moratorium extended with no time limit.

Facing this complex situation, Israel will have to decide immediately after Passover how to answer Obama. Both Netanyahu and Defence Minister Ehud Barak, said on Sunday that Israel can agree to "some" of Obama's demands "but not to all of them." They didn't elaborate, although Barak admitted that Jerusalem is the most contested issue between Israel and the U.S. Barak urged Netanyahu to present Obama with an Israeli peace initiative. In his opinion, Israel needed to strive for the establishment of a "demilitarized" Palestinian state, with a viable territorial continuity.

Barak, however, agrees with Netanyahu that sensitive problems, like final borders, Palestinian refugees, Jerusalem and the settlement blocs in the West Bank should come up only during direct negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians.

Israel should refuse any notion that the U.S. would negotiate on behalf of the Palestinians.

Samuel Segev is the Free Press Middle East correspondent

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition March 30, 2010 A11

Fact Check

Fact Check

Have you found an error, or know of something we’ve missed in one of our stories?
Please use the form below and let us know.

* Required
  • Please post the headline of the story or the title of the video with the error.

  • Please post exactly what was wrong with the story.

  • Please indicate your source for the correct information.

  • Yes

    No

  • This will only be used to contact you if we have a question about your submission, it will not be used to identify you or be published.

  • Cancel

Having problems with the form?

Contact Us Directly
  • Print

You can comment on most stories on winnipegfreepress.com. You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

You can comment on most stories on winnipegfreepress.com. You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

Have Your Say

New to commenting? Check out our Frequently Asked Questions.

Have Your Say

Comments are open to Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscribers only. why?

Have Your Say

Comments are open to Winnipeg Free Press Subscribers only. why?

The Winnipeg Free Press does not necessarily endorse any of the views posted. By submitting your comment, you agree to our Terms and Conditions. These terms were revised effective April 16, 2010.

letters

Make text: Larger | Smaller

LATEST VIDEO

Jets This Week: Predicting the line-ups

View more like this

Photo Store Gallery

  • JOE BRYKSA/WINNIPEG FREE PRESS Local- A large osprey lands in it's nest in a hydro pole on Hyw 59  near the Hillside Beach turnoff turn off. Osprey a large narrow winged hawk which can have a wingspan of over 54 inches are making a incredible recovery since pesticide use of the 1950's and  1960's- For the last two decades these fish hawks have been reappearing in the Lake Winnipeg area- Aug 03, 2005
  • Two Canada geese fly Wednesday afternoon at Oak Hammock Marsh- Front bird is banded for identification- Goose Challenge Day 3- - Apr 30, 2012   (JOE BRYKSA / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS)

View More Gallery Photos

About Samuel Segev

Samuel Segev is the Winnipeg Free Press correspondent in the Middle East. He is based in Tel Aviv.

Poll

Do you think the Jets' three pre-season losses in a row are a sign of things to come?

View Results

View Related Story

Ads by Google