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Wednesday, March 24, 2010

America's Spiraling Crisis with Israel


-Joel Rosenberg

(Washington, D.C, 9:35pm eastern) — What in the world is going on behind the scenes of the Obama-Netanyahu meetings? Why are the talks so tense, and so shrouded in secrecy? Tonight, I have been able to gain some clues. It’s not good.

The Obama administration is apparently applying intense and unprecedented pressure on the Netanyahu government to make huge unilateral concessions to the Palestinians even before direct peace talks begin. Says an advisor who has been briefed on the talks:

“President Obama is insisting that Israel sign a document that specifies Israel’s commitment to a peace deal with the Palestinians that will be based on 1967 lines. This means no building in Jerusalem, and a time table to address other core issues, like the ‘right of return.’”

The source, one that I trust a great deal, also notes that President Obama spoke by phone in the last 24 hours with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, French President Nicolas Sarkozy, and British Prime Minister Gordon Brown to make sure each of them are on board with pressuring the Israelis to make such unprecedented unilateral concessions.

The Netanyahu team delayed their departure out of Washington Wednesday afternoon to continue meeting together at the Israeli Embassy, and later with special Mideast envoy George Mitchell and other key administration officials. The team is expected to leave back to Israel tonight.

A virtual news blackout has been imposed on President Obama’s meetings with Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu. The two leaders met twice at the White House on Tuesday night for a total of about two hours, from 5:30pm to around 7pm, and then again from about 8:30pm to 9pm. Senior aides to both leaders then stayed up until nearly 1am Wednesday morning continuing their talks. The White House, however, has refused to treat Netanyahu and Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak, along on the trip, with the dignity and respect afforded other world leaders. No joint press conferences. No photo ops. No still shots released of the two leaders meeting. Pretty much ”no comment” to any of the substance.

The Netanyahu team, apparently following the request of the White House and trying to be sensitive to the desire of its host, isn’t talking either. On Wednesday morning, the Israelis canceled all interviews. Several news outlets have noted the silence related to the talks is “deafening,” and I agree. It’s hard to remember the last time a world leader of Netanyahu’s caliber — particularly a strong friend and ally of the United States — was subject to such treatment from an administration that claims to be hitting the “reset” button to improve relations between the two countries. Except for last year when Netanyahu came to Washington and also met with Obama without a photo op, press conference, or any of the diplomatic trappings of mutual respect and true friendship.

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