Report says Obama steps up Israel pressure 29Mar10 March 30, 2010

Ma’an News Agencies -  29 March 2010


US President Barack Obama made clear during talks with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu last week that he intends to impose a peace deal in less than two years, news reports said Monday.

The Israeli daily Haaretz, quoting political sources, reported that Israeli officials view Obama’s supposed demands as just the beginning in a dramatic change in US policy toward Israel, with which the Americans retain strong ties.

According to the report, 10 demands posed by Obama include four specifically dealing with Jerusalem, including opening a Palestinian interests office in occupied East Jerusalem, to stop razing Palestinian buildings, and a settlement freeze that includes Ramat Shlomo, the settlement area that sparked US Vice President Joe Biden’s condemnation when it was announced during a visit earlier this month.

Haaretz says Israeli officials are worried that Obama wants both sides to discuss core issues in indirect talks rather than in future direct negotiations, which would become unnecessary. This method would permit the US to impose its own settlement, the officials reportedly said.

Furthermore, the sources claim that the White House and State Department have put pressure on Israel via its allies in Europe, particularly Germany.

They also fear the supposedly new policies contradict past assurances and will encourage Palestinians to toughen their stance, which is already opposed to any kind of negotiations without a real settlement freeze.

President Mahmoud Abbas told delegates Saturday at the Arab League summit in Libya that there will be no talks without an end to settlements in all the occupied Palestinian territories including East Jerusalem.

Abbas said that in order to save the two-state solution, immediate action was required to compel Israel into committing to a Palestinian state on land occupied by Israel in 1967, a settlement moratorium, and adhering to the terms of the Road Map.

“Jerusalem is the jewel in the crown as well as the door and the key to peace. We emphasize that we hold onto every grain of soil and stone in Jerusalem. We are determined to defend Palestine’s capital,” he said.

The president further called on the international community not to recognize unilateral actions in Jerusalem, and demanded that Arab and Muslim support be mobilized, in coordination with the Organization of the Islamic Conference, to bring a halt to “Israeli aggression” against Muslim and Christian religious sites.

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