White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel has made it clear to Israel that a permanent status arrangement must be reached with the Palestinians over the next few years – no matter what.
President Barack Obama’s chief of staff reportedly made his comments during a conversation with a Jewish leader in Washington, D.C., and his words have recently come to light in Israel.
“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,” Mr. Emanuel was quoted as having said.
Mr. Emanuel’s words have been publicized amid reports the Obama administration has also informed Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that Mr. Obama will not be able to meet with him early next month during his scheduled appearance at the American Israel Political Action Committee’s (AIPAC) annual conference in Washington, D.C.
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Mr. Netanyahu had hoped to capitalize on the opportunity and meet with Mr. Obama during the annual conference, but the Americans informed the Israelis that Mr. Obama was not going to be “in town.”
That being the case, Mr. Netanyahu’s aides hope to cancel his trip to attend the conference and try to secure a meeting with Mr. Obama later in May.
These actions come as the Obama administration has sharpened its rhetoric regarding negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians. The administration has told Mr. Netanyahu’s government that confronting Iran’s nuclear threat will be contingent on progress in the negotiations and an Israeli withdrawal from areas that it acquired in the 1967 Six-Day War.
Senior Obama administration officials are aware of how the prime minister and Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak have linked their willingness to achieve progress with the Palestinians with America’s willingness to confront Iran.
Possibly as a result of the Israeli stance, they have also begun to talk about “Bushehr for Yitzhar,” meaning U.S. willingness to pressure Iran about its nuclear reactor near the city of Bushehr depends on having Israel dismantle the Jewish settlement of Yizhar on the West Bank.
Residents of Yitzhar were not pleased by the American demand.
“I am more than merely suspicious that it was Israelis who put together that rhyme, maybe Israelis who work with Obama,” said Yigal Amitai, a resident of Yitzhar. “After all, it isn’t Yitzhar that bothers the Arabs, but the very Israeli presence anywhere to the west of the Jordan River. I haven’t got any expectations of the Americans, but I do expect that Mr. Netanyahu make it clear that those ideas are completely out of the question.”
Eli Eitan, an American citizen who moved to Yitzhar from New York 11 years ago,
also expressed his disgust with the Obama administration’s demands.
“As an American citizen I’m offended by that statement. How can one draw a comparison between a country whose entire substance is terrorism, and me, who only wants to settle in my homeland?” Mr. Eitan asked.
These U.S.-Israeli controversies also coincide with Obama Middle East envoy George Mitchell’s visit to Israel.
Mr. Mitchell met with Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman on Thursday, and reports indicate Mr. Lieberman reiterated Israeli demands for the Palestinians to disarm their terrorist organizations before negotiations can proceed.
At the same time, Palestinians received Mr. Mitchell’s visit by firing yet another salvo of rockets into Israeli territory. This marked the 187th rocket attack from Gaza since Israel declared a self-imposed cease-fire on January 18.
David Bedein can be reached at email@example.com