Israel Confronts Obama
By Frederick Butler, CNI Communications Director
The long debate on whether a cease of Israel’s illegal settlement expansion was a precondition to the US leading Israeli-Palestinian peace talks has been settled –with more settlements?
“Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu approved building thousands of new homes in West Bank settlements next week prior to freezing construction there,” said a senior Israeli government official.
When asked about Israel’s approved plans to construct thousands of new settlement White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs said, “We regret the reports of Israel’s plans to approve additional settlement construction. Continued settlement activity is inconsistent with Israel’s commitment under the Roadmap.”
To which roadmap are we referring? Is it the roadmap to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict proposed by the Quartet? Or the roadmap of the Likud government that will drive Palestinians out of the Holy land, and chauffeur the United States into war with Iran? The two sometimes become foggy.
“As the President has said before, the United States does not accept the legitimacy of continued settlement expansion and we urge that it stop,” said Gibbs. “We are working to create a climate in which negotiations can take place, and such actions make it harder to create such a climate.”
Those in the peace community welcome the President’s contempt for continued illegal Israeli settlement expansion. But, as Israel continues to disregard US demands will the administration ever reprimand the extreme right government’s disrespect for America and the peace process? All sign point to no.
“We do appreciate Israel’s stated intent to place limits on settlement activity and will continue to discuss this with the Israelis as these limitations are defined,” said Gibbs. “The US commitment to Israel’s security is and will remain unshakable. We believe it can best be achieved through comprehensive peace in the region, including a two-state solution with a Palestinian state living side by side in peace with Israel. That is the ultimate goal to which the President is deeply and personally committed.”
“Our objective remains to resume meaningful negotiations as soon as possible in pursuit of this goal. We are working with all parties Israelis, Palestinians, and Arab states — on the steps they must take to achieve that objective.”
The White House seemed to be caught off-guard by the Likud government’s push against US demands. A new Mid-East peace deal was supposed to be unveiled at the end of the month, but with recent activity that possibility is starting to look more and more unlikely.
Palestinian leadership has yet to respond to the new Israeli plan for continued settlement expansion, but with Fatah Leader Abbas stating publicly that “a full freeze” of Israeli settlements would be necessary to get him to the table -he is sure to be displeased.
If Abbas’ and President Obama’s call for a freeze in settlement expansion is ignored and the Israeli’s are not dealt any punishment -who is really in charge here?
Can the United States truly present themselves as an honest-broker of peace to the Arab community if we let Israel off the hook for their blockade of US diplomacy? The question will be answered when news of Gibbs’ comments filter through Arab channels, and statements from their leadership are made public.
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