Israeli anxiety over the Obama administration actually being serious about settlement growth seems to getting worked into a full blown lather. Ha’aretz is following the frenzy closely and reports on a meeting between George Mitchell and Israeli officials in London to follow up on the Obama-Netanyahu meeting two weeks ago. The article has the unintentionally funny headline “Israel to U.S.: ‘Stop favoring Palestinians’:
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.”
Ha’aretz also points out the Israeli delegates’ disappointment that the Obama administration will not honor the deals the Bush administration struck with Ariel Sharon.
As can be expected, Israeli politicians are turning this disagreement over policy into an existential crisis. Noam Sheizaf points to this quote on his Promised Land blog:
“The American demand to prevent natural growth is unreasonable, and brings to mind Pharaoh who said: Every son that is born ye shall cast into the river,” Science Minister and Habayit Hayehudi head Daniel Herschkowitz said Sunday.
Sheizaf ends with, “My guess is that it is only a matter of time before Obama will be compared to Hitler.”
With Amalek in Iran, and the Pharoah running things in DC, Israel will really have its work cut out for it. Unfortunately, for all the fireworks, the US has still not decided how it wants to hold Israel accountable to stopping settlement growth. Helene Cooper reports today in her Times article “U.S. Weighs Tactics on Israeli Settlement” that “placing conditions on loan guarantees to Israel, as the first President Bush did nearly 20 years ago, is not under discussion,” and that at this point the US is only considering symbolic actions such as “refraining from the instant Security Council veto of United Nations resolutions that Israel opposes.” Small steps.