It hasn't taken Benjamin Netanyahu long to show his true colors by creating new hoops for the Palestinians to jump through in order to resume peace negotiations with Israel. The Israeli Prime Minister has reportedly told U.S. Special Envoy to the Middle East, George Mitchell, that the Palestinians must recognize Israel as a "Jewish state" before it will discuss establishing an independent Palestinian state.
This comes at a time when according to the Israeli newspaper Haaretz:
The Obama administration is preparing a Middle East peace process that will include simultaneous bilateral talks between Israel and the Palestinians, and between Israel and Syria. The plan is based on the Arab peace initiative that offers establishing normal relations between Israel and Arab League states in exchange for withdrawing from the occupied territories and establishing a Palestinian state.
President Barack Obama is expected to propose a "security package," including demilitarization of the territories from which Israel will withdraw and the option of stationing a multinational force in the territories for years.
A new round of Middle East diplomacy will start in the White House later this month when President Barack Obama meets with Jordan's King Abdullah. It is expected that
that PA President Mahmoud Abbas will be invited next, followed by the Israeli Prime Minister.
Benjamin Netanyahu is not the first Israeli prime minister to throw the "Jewish state" monkey wrench in the path of the creation of a Palestinian state. Ahead of the Annapolis conference in 2007, former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert declared that he did not intend "to compromise in any way over the issue of the Jewish state. This will be a condition for our recognition of a Palestinian state." Nevertheless, he went to Annapolis and has made his strongest push for a Palestinian state, albeit on his way out from office when he said, "If the day comes when the two-state solution collapses, and we face a South African-style struggle for equal voting rights, then, as soon as that happens, the State of Israel is finished."
Unlike Ehud Olmert, Benjamin Netanyahu is more concerned about the threat from Iran and less about the demographic Palestinian threat. He and his circle of Israeli nationalists, such as his foreign minister, Avigador Lieberman, believe that the biggest threat is Iran and have created a linkage between Israel's willingness to make advances on the Palestinian track and their expectations of the Americans to address the Iranian threat. Basically, Benjamin Netanyahu wants guarantees from the U.S. President to defuse the Iranian threat, including the nuclear reactor in Bushehr, in exchange for evacuating some Israeli settlements in the West Bank to make room for a Palestinian state.
Bushehr in exchange for some West Bank settlements.
Meanwhile, the Obama administration believes that a breakthrough in the peace process between Israel and the Arab states would restrain Tehran's influence in the region and contribute to the diplomatic effort to block its nuclear ambitions.
Will President Barack Obama fall for Benjamin Netanyahu's new strategy?
Many Palestinians believe that this is Obama's time to assert America's new role in the Middle East as an honest broker. Solving the Iranian problem is not going to help bring about a solution to the Israeli-Palestinian issue; rather, it is the other way around.
Jamal Dajani produces the Mosaic Intelligence Report on Link TV.