Sunday, May 31, 2009

Obama Team: Promises of previous administrations irrelevant

(Dr Lerner has a number of links today for background information related to this article. Click on the IMRA banner above for more articles.)

Dr. Aaron Lerner - IMRA: Important message for Israel from President
Obama: Don't take any "risk for peace" based on promises from an American

Israel: U.S. demand for settlement freeze 'not fair'
By Barak Ravid, Haaretz Correspondent Last update - 01:31 31/05/2009

Tensions between Washington and Jerusalem are growing after the U.S.
administration's demand that Israel completely freeze construction in all
West Bank settlements. Israeli political officials expressed disappointment
after Tuesday's round of meetings in London with George Mitchell, U.S.
President Barack Obama's envoy to the Middle East.

"We're disappointed," said one senior official. "All of the understandings
reached during the [George W.] Bush administration are worth nothing."
Another official said the U.S. administration is refusing every Israeli
attempt to reach new agreements on settlement construction. "The United
States is taking a line of granting concessions to the Palestinians that is
not fair toward Israel," he said.

The Israeli officials attributed the unyielding U.S. stance to the speech
Obama will make in Cairo this Thursday, in which he is expected to deliver a
message of reconciliation to the Arab and Muslim worlds.

Mitchell was joined at the London talks by his deputy David Hale, Daniel B.
Shapiro (the head of the National Security Council's Middle East desk), and
State Department deputy legal adviser Jonathan Schwartz.

The Israeli delegation consisted of National Security Adviser Uzi Arad,
Netanyahu diplomatic envoy Yitzhak Molcho, Defense Ministry chief of staff
Mike Herzog and deputy prime minister Dan Meridor.

Herzog spoke to Mitchell and his staff about understandings reached by
former prime ministers Ehud Olmert and Ariel Sharon with the Bush
administration on allowing continued building in the large West Bank
settlement blocs. He asked that a similar agreement be reached with the
Obama government.

Meridor spoke of the complexities characterizing the coalition headed by
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, and said Washington's demands of a
complete construction freeze would lead to the dissolution of the Netanyahu

The Israeli delegates were stunned by the uncompromising U.S. stance, and by
statements from Mitchell and his staff that agreements reached with the Bush
administration were unacceptable. An Israeli official privy to the talks
said that "the Americans took something that had been agreed on for many
years and just stopped everything."

"What about the Tenet Report, which demanded that the Palestinians dismantle
the terror infrastructure?" said the official, referring to former CIA
director George Tenet. "It's unfair, and there is no reciprocity shown
toward the Palestinians."

The Israeli envoys said the demand for a total settlement freeze was not
only unworkable, but would not receive High Court sanction. Tensions
reportedly reached a peak when, speaking of the Gaza disengagement, the
Israelis told their interlocutors, "We evacuated 8,000 settlers on our own
initiative," to which Mitchell responded simply, "We've noted that here."

Defense Minister Ehud Barak will travel to Washington today in an attempt to
put further pressure on the Obama administration.

"We want to reach an agreement with the United States on ways to advance the
peace process," said a senior Jerusalem official. The U.S. stance, he said,
"will stall the process and bring about tension and stagnation, which will
hurt both Israel and the United States.

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