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Netanyahu Speaks: The Israel-Palestine Ball Remains in Obama’s Court

fellow at the Institute for Policy Studies,

The Israeli prime minister’s speech responding to U.S. wishes for the region amounted to little more than rhetorical change.

Now the Israeli-Palestinian ball remains squarely in President Obama’s court — and the results will be determined largely by his administration’s decision on whether or not to use real (i.e., financial or diplomatic) pressure, rather than relying solely on public or private urging, for Israel to comply with U.S. wishes. Without concrete consequences for Tel Aviv’s noncompliance —such as withholding all or part of the $3 billion annual U.S. military aid to Israel, or withdrawing the U.S. diplomatic protection that keeps Israel from being held accountable in the UN Security Council — Obama’s demands for a settlement freeze or anything else will have little impact”

[After an analysis of the “Palestinian state”, settlements, Israel as the “State of the Jewish people”, Israel, the Arab word and Iran, Bennis looks at the quetions facing Obama:

Now, in Obama’s court…

Questions remain.

  • Will Obama accept Netanyahu’s rhetorical use of the words “Palestinian state” as a major concession, sufficient to demand new concessions from the Palestinians?
  • If Netanyahu moves one step further and calls for some kind of settlement freeze (whether or not it is actually imposed on the ground), will that be greeted as an important new concession with no response to the continuing illegality of the existing settlements?
  • Will the Obama administration’s regional strategy focus on building an Israeli-Arab alliance against Iran despite Obama’s stated commitment to new negotiations with Iran “without preconditions on the basis of mutual respect”?
  • How will Obama respond if there are a few more rhetorical concessions from Netanyahu, even if there is no actual motion on the ground on Palestinian rights?

Or, looking forward…

  • Will Obama send his envoy, former Senator George Mitchell, to inform the Israeli government that Washington’s next step will be the withholding of this year’s $3 billion in U.S. military aid to Israel until there is evidence on the ground, not only in words, of a complete halt in building, selling, recruiting residents, or any other activity in any of the settlements?
  • Will Obama announce that continuing to sponsor bilateral Palestinian-Israeli talks is futile when the disparity of power remains so profound, and that instead the new U.S. policy will be to support regional negotiations based solely on international law and all relevant UN resolutions as the basis for ending occupation and establishing a just and comprehensive peace in the region?

Okay. Maybe that last one is still a ways down the line. But stay tuned.”

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