'Gestures - yes, but not in J'lem'

PMO sources: Israel won't change policy in capital; Clinton: Pressure paid off.

By JPOST.COM STAFF, JTA
March 19, 2010 21:31
3 minute read.
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu (AP).

netanyahu flag 311. (photo credit: AP)

Israel is willing to be flexible towards the United States following a crisis that erupted between the two countries during Vice President Joe Biden’s visit to Israel earlier this month, but will not give up on some core issues.

A source at the Prime Minister’s Office said Friday Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu agrees to carry out goodwill gestures towards the Palestinians, but not in Jerusalem.

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Netanyahu reportedly may agree, among other things to release Fatah prisoners as a gesture to the Palestinian Authority.

Earlier this week, Netanyahu reiterated that his government’s policy in Jerusalem is no different than the policy of previous Israeli governments.

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Israel's 10-month moratorium on settlement construction, which, when announced by Netanyahu, was hailed by Clinton as "unprecedented," explicitly did not include Jerusalem. It was wholeheartedly embraced by the Americans at the time.

Also Friday, US Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, who at President Barack Obama’s behest gave Netanyahu a 43 minute dressing-down over the phone last week,  told BBC that pressure against Israel paid off, and that Jerusalem will now be willing to compromise.

She presented the so-called ‘proximity talks’ with the Palestinian Authority as an achievement of US Middle East envoy George Mitchell. The talks are yet to begin, and the paradigm the US foresees would have Mitchell shuttling between Jerusalem and Ramallah as courier for both sides.

Clinton along with her colleagues in the Middle East Quartet – the US, UN, EU and Russia – issued a statement in Moscow on Friday that demanded Israel fully halt all construction for Jews in Jerusalem, including building necessitated by natural population expansion, while simultaneously not demolishing Arab homes in the capital. A large number of Arab houses are built without municipal permits.

Clinton told BBC that she believed some members in the Israeli government were operating against the government’s interests. She nevertheless claimed that Washington was not trying to meddle in Israeli politics.

Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman arrived in Brussels on Friday for talks with officials of several European Union nations after an official meeting between the EU and Israel was called off.

Lieberman struck a tough position against the Quartet’s statement, also dashing Clinton’s hopes that all ministers in the Israeli government would easily surrender to Washington’s steamroller.

Upon arriving in Brussels, Lieberman said that the Quartet’s statement ignores the fact that the foundations of peace must be set before peace can be achieved. Peace, he was quoted by Israel Radio as saying, is not something that can be forced upon two parties or saddled to an unrealistic timeline.

Lieberman reportedly said that such statements only made real peace between Israel and the Palestinian a more remote possibility.

In the US on Thursday, Rabbi Eric Yoffie, president of the Union for Reform Judaism, the largest synagogue movement in the county, called on Israel to enact a construction freeze in eastern Jerusalem.

He expressed his views during remarks to rabbis and members of URJ's board of trustees.

"There is also a substantive question of great importance that needs to be addressed: Should Israel continue to build now in East Jerusalem? I believe that it should not," Yoffie said.

Also on Friday Alon Pinkas, formerly Israel’s consul in New York, said the crisis between Israel and the US is deep and would not be resolved during Netanyahu’s visit to Washington next week.

Speaking to Channel 2, Pinkas said the crisis is comprised both of a personal antipathy the Obama administration harbors toward Netanyahu, dating back to his first term when Clinton’s husband was US president, but also a widening gap in policy.

Pinkas said a briefing to the CIA by US Army General David Petraeus, where the Centcom commander said Israel’s actions endanger US troops throughout the Middle East, was tantamount to Petraeus saying that Israel was “no longer an asset, and regards wider US interests in the Middle East may even be a burden.”


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