'US promises are like a poison pill in a candy wrapper'

Settler leaders lobby ministers to reject potential deal between PM and the Americans which would lead to extension of West Bank building freeze.

Dani Dayan 311 (photo credit: Courtesy)
Dani Dayan 311
(photo credit: Courtesy)
Worried that his home could be given to the Palestinians, Jordan Valley Regional Council Chairman David Lahiani has asked for an emergency meeting with Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu to clarify the status of his region in any future peace deal.
“I hope I will hear from him,” a concerned Lahiani told The Jerusalem Post on Sunday evening, after waiting for more than two days with no response from the prime minister.
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Lahiani first heard of the possibility that giving up the Jordan Valley was part of Israel’s debate with the US, from media reports Thursday night, which speculated that US President Barack Obama had penned a letter to Netanyahu in which he promised to allow Israeli troops to remain in the Jordan Valley after a final-status agreement is reached with the Palestinians.
A denial from the White House that such a letter exists has done little to assuage the fears of settlers like Lahiani, who believe that the substance of the alleged letter was raised with Netanyahu, even if it was never actually set down in writing.
Settlers have continued to heavily lobby ministers to ensure that they do not support any deal that Netanyahu might make with the US in an effort to keep the Palestinians at the negotiating table.
Settlers who last week marked the end of the 10- month moratorium on new construction in the settlements found this week that instead of pushing for permits to allow more building, they are still fighting for the right to execute already authorized construction.
“We are in a critical week,” said Dani Dayan, chairman of the Council of Jewish Communities in Judea, Samaria and the Gaza Strip.
The issue of settlement construction is far from settled, said Dayan, who explained, “This is not like a soccer game in which the referee says the game is over. We have to be on guard 24/7.”
In a statement he issued to the media Sunday, he warned that US pledges to Israel in exchange for a two-month extension of the moratorium were offerings of poisoned candy.
“It is a poison pill wrapped in colorful paper to make it look attractive and appealing,” Dayan said.
Accepting the US proposal would be tantamount to conceding the Jordan Valley even before the negotiations have gotten under way, Dayan said.
“Otherwise why would you need an agreement [with the US] that [Israeli] troops can be stationed there?” he asked.
It’s like announcing that Israel plans to return to the pre-1967 border, which is not defensible, he said.
The incentives offered here are an attempt to strip Israel of its assets before the negotiations, in a way that weakens Israel before it gets to the issues of Jerusalem, refugees and water, Dayan said.
He warned that if this strategy succeeds, Israelis would need a tourist visa to visit the Western Wall.
The council also directly appealed to Obama to allow Israel to act in its own self-interest and to stand true to commitments made by past US administrations.
“Obama is threatening to completely disregarded promises made by the Bush administration, so we cannot count on his new so-called assurances,” Dayan said. “For an ally of Israel to act in such a manner signals a further troubling new direction by the American president and we would urge Prime Minister Netanyahu to stand strong and continue to respect the vital needs of his people.”
The council warned Netanyahu that he “must first serve his own nation, and he cannot choose the American president’s will over that of the Israeli people.”
The council’s director-general, Naftali Bennett, added that it was difficult to trust any letter that Obama might pen, given that he had dismissed the written pledges his predecessor, George W. Bush, had given Israel with regard to the settlement blocs.
“If each president ignores and erases the commitments of the previous one, why should we take on this new promise?” Bennett asked.
He added that if Israel backs down from its pledge to let the moratorium expire, “there will be no more value or meaning to our word, ever.”

Gil Hoffman contributed to this report.