Monday, November 22, 2010

US: Promise To Israel? What Promise???

How many different US promises to Israel in return for extending the settlement freeze can you name?

Among those that have been floating around are:
  • An American commitment to veto any initiative brought before the UN to bypass the peace negotiations
  • A US commitment not to demand another freeze extension beyond the agreed upon 90 days
  • The freeze would not include Jerusalem
  • A guarantee that the borders issue will not be negotiated on separately.
  • A promise that Israel will receive 20 F-35 aircraft worth $ 3 billion
  • A promise by the US, for one year, to prevent the Palestinian Arabs from unilaterally establishing a state
David Bedein writes that US officials themselves have a much shorter list of promises to Israel:
United States officials are unfamiliar with the commitments America is allegedly offering Israel in exchange for a ban on Jewish construction in Judea and Samaria, says investigative journalist David Bedein.
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu has told his ministers, and the Israeli public, that the U.S. has promised not to pressure Israel for any additional ban on construction in the future in exchange for a three-month building freeze now.

Bedein was in the U.S. last week and met with senior White House officials. He reports that he was surprised to hear them deny the promises reported by Netanyahu. The officials said they had heard of the alleged American commitments in the Israeli media but had not received confirmation from the Obama administration.

Bedein said he has filed an inquiry at the Prime Minister's Office regarding what he heard but has not yet received a response.

Meanwhile, Former United States ambassador to Israel, Dan Kurtzer, wrote in the Washington Post that Israel should not sign the agreement with Obama, calling it a "bribe" that will change the United States-Israel relationship to one of a political nature.

National Security Advisor Uzi Arad said Saturday that U.S. leaders had put one commitment in writing. In an interview with Channel 2, he said American officials had promised in writing not to pressure Israel again if Israel agrees to a second moratorium on building.

Arad also confirmed reports that the U.S. had promised Israel F-35 stealth fighter jets in exchange for the freeze, but said that contrary to some rumors, the jets would not be given as a gift. Israel will pay for the planes, he said, adding that details of the sale are not yet final. Minister Uzi Landau said several days ago that the jets are conditional on reaching an agreement on borders within the 90 day freeze period.
So at this point, no one really seems to know for sure what is being promised to Israel--and an assurance not to ask again for an Israel moratorium hardly seems enough, considering the political capital Netanyahu would have to expend to get approval, and in contrast to all the goodies that have been rumored to have been offered.

The conditional sale of the F-35's is emblematic of the problem: once there is an agreement on borders, the fear is that Abbas would be able to make good on the threat to go to the UN and have a second Palestinian state declared unilaterally. Against that possibility, a bunch of jets just doesn't seem like a whole lot.

So we wait, and see if anything comes of this.
And wonder just who to believe.

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