The concern in Jerusalem after the Obama-Netanyahu meeting has turned into panic, once it was made clear that the administration wants Israel to really stop building in the settlements. Haaretz reports:
We’re disappointed,” said one senior (Israeli) official. “All of the understandings reached during the [George W.] Bush administration are worth nothing.” Another official said the U.S. administration is refusing every Israeli attempt to reach new agreements on settlement construction. “The United States is taking a line of granting concessions to the Palestinians that is not fair toward Israel,” he said.
Netanyahu’s team – consisted of National Security Adviser Uzi Arad, diplomatic envoy Yitzhak Molcho, Defense Ministry chief of staff Mike Herzog and deputy prime minister Dan Meridor – met in London with George Mitchell, the president’s envoy to the Middle East, and was shocked to find out that the old trick of allowing construction that will meet “natural growth” demands in the settlements won’t work anymore:
The Israeli delegates were stunned by the uncompromising U.S. stance, and by statements from Mitchell and his staff that agreements reached with the Bush administration were unacceptable. An Israeli official privy to the talks said that “the Americans took something that had been agreed on for many years and just stopped everything.”
Maariv’s Ben Caspit quotes Netanyahu as saying to his close aids “what does he [Obama] want from me? That the government will fall?”
“The American demand to prevent natural growth is unreasonable, and brings to mind Pharaoh who said: Every son that is born ye shall cast into the river,” Science Minister and Habayit Hayehudi head Daniel Herschkowitz said Sunday.
… “If there is a family that expands from one child to four or five, what should we tell them – to ship the children off to Petah Tikva (a Tel Aviv suberb)? This is an unacceptable demand, even if it comes from the Americans, and Israel should reject it decisively,” he affirmed.
Netanyahu himself has turned to the second trick in the Israeli arsenal – sending the Labor ministers to speak for the government. Ehud Barak has left for Washington, and will try to explain the PM’s delicate political situation. At the same time, Israel will probably try to check just how determined the new president really is. So far, his words were clear enough, but it remains to be seen what will happen when a new neighborhood east of the 67’ borders will be populated. My guess is that it is only a matter of time before Obama will be compared to Hitler.