Obama planning to pressure Israel? Likud officials say, 'Bring it on'

Reports indicate the US is planning a major diplomatic push after the Israeli elections this month.

March 6, 2015 20:00
2 minute read.
Benjamin Netanyahu, Barack Obama and Mahmoud Abbas

Benjamin Netanyahu, Barack Obama and Mahmoud Abbas. (photo credit: REUTERS)

Amid reports that US President Barack Obama plans to utilize the final 20 months of his term in office to push through a major diplomatic initiative in the Israeli-Palestinian sphere, officials in Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s ruling Likud party on Friday privately expressed glee over the prospect.

Likud officials reacted to a report in the liberal daily Haaretz which cited White House sources as saying that Obama has every intention of revisiting the issue after a new government is formed in Jerusalem.

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“We would like to see the formation of the new government in Israel and its attitude to this issue,” a US official told Haaretz. “But in the year and a half to two years that Obama has left in the White House, we will have to deal with this issue because time is working against us.”

The Haaretz report, although seemingly problematic for the Israeli Right since it implies more pressure from Washington for Israeli concessions to the Palestinians, may actually serve Netanyahu’s short-term political goals.

Likud officials told The Jerusalem Post’s Gil Hoffman that the party could exploit the specter of a US-imposed Israeli withdrawal to rally more voters to Netanyahu’s side. They believe that reminding voters about the danger of an Obama administration winding down its term in office will frighten them into casting their ballots for Netanyahu once more.

The flurry of talk and speculation regarding Obama’s plans following the Israeli elections can be felt immediately following Netanyahu’s appearance this past Tuesday before a joint session of Congress.

Earlier on Friday, a source close to Netanyahu denied a Yediot Aharonot report which claimed that the prime minister had agreed in principle to an Israeli withdrawal to the 1967 armistice lines as the basis for negotiations with the Palestinians.

This, in turn, led to alarm on within the nationalist camp. Naftali Bennett, the chairman of Bayit Yehudi, took to Facebook on Friday, posting an impassioned plea to right-wing voters to bolster his faction’s clout in the next parliament in order to head off “unprecedented international pressure.”

“Wake up,” Bennett writes. “This is a letter that I wrote from the heart. I am writing now out of a sense of urgency. We must rouse the public in order to prevent a disaster for Israel.”

“I will be as clear as possible,” he writes. “In the next two years, unprecedented pressure will be brought to bear on Israel to give up Judea and Samaria to the Arabs and to establish a Palestinian state there. Without a strong Bayit Yehudi in parliament, this disaster will happen. Nobody will be there to stop it.”

Bennett said that the document cited by Yediot Aharonot indicating Netanyahu’s acquiescence to an Israeli pullback to the ’67 lines “is true, irrespective of the motives behind its publication.”

“The facts are correct,” Bennett said. “It has already been reported in other media outlets.”

The two largest nationalist parties will now vie for votes by claiming that only they can stop the coming wave of pressure.

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