Sunday, May 03, 2009

If this does not get your blood boiling, I do not know what will...

Netanyahu heads for collision with Obama administration

Israeli president Shimon Peres' task in Washington on May 4-5 is to blunt the sharp edge the White House is honing to force Israel to toe the new Washington line on the Palestinians, Syria and Iran. Prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu can expect the full force of a bludgeon to be wielded in his White House talks on May 18.

DEBKAfile's Washington sources report that their host is fired up to be the first US president in decades of close friendship and cooperation to clash openly with Israel and the bulk of US Jewry. Oblivious to Israel's claim of US support for its security in a hostile regional environment, Barack Obama is expected to squeeze the Netanyahu government hard for immediate engagement on the Middle East conflict without further delay.

According to our sources, the White House staff is working at top speed on options for imposing its will.

Peres and Netanyahu will be informed that Washington is setting up two trilateral peace commissions to hammer out peace accords between Israel and the Palestinians and Israel with the Syrians.

US officials in both chairs will intercede with their own ideas to prevent them running into deadlock on disputed issues. DEBKAfile's sources confirm that the Obama administration will not spare the whip to force the parties into line.

The US president and his top advisers are convinced that the Palestinian problem is the main obstacle to accommodations for Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iraq and Iran. Defense secretary Robert Gates and national security adviser Gen. James Jones are the leading advocates of this proposition, with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton more skeptical but ready to back the president's Middle East determination to place Israel in the first line of fire.

Some of DEBKAfile's US sources admit that President Obama is himself under pressure because, despite the high approval rating he gained for his first 100 days in office, his myriad policy initiatives have yet to show results.

His economic remedies have steadied the banking system but not yet filtered down to the general public, he faces a hard slog in Afghanistan, Iraq and Pakistan before making headway, and Tehran is playing hardball at every turn on the road to dialogue.

The only arena where the White House can hope for quick results is the Israel-Palestinian-Syrian track.

The two peace conferences in preparation recall Bill Clinton's success in forcing the Serbs, Bosnians and Croats to sign the Dayton Accord of 1995, so terminating a war of three-and-a-half years.

The presidential envoy for Afghanistan and Pakistan, Richard Holbrooke, was the architect of Dayton. George Mitchell, Obama's Middle East envoy, is in line for a similar role today. During his two rounds of talks in Middle East capitals, Mitchell has shown a smiling, genial face, but said little, while in Washington, a State Department team is working overtime on a new American "road map."

It starts out with pressure on Israel to freeze settlement activity on the West Bank and construction in East Jerusalem. At a later stage, Israel would be pushed to abandon large sections of the West Bank, remove authorized communities as well as unauthorized outposts and hand over the historic nucleus of Jerusalem.

Finally, the Israeli government would be required to accept an independent Palestinian state, even if its government is dominated by the rejectionist terrorist group Hamas.

Peres and Netanyahu will find administration officials deaf not only on Israel's arguments on the Palestinian issue but on a nuclear-armed Iran too. They will see the US president no longer prioritizing the suspension of Iran's nuclear aspirations, but bent on establishing a new Persian Gulf order that formalizes Iran's rising power. Washington's objective now is negotiations for setting the boundaries of Iran's Middle East expansion and limits for its nuclear program.

Israel will have no say in this process. In fact, by elevating Iran to premier regional power, America is sidelining its longstanding friends, Israel and Egypt, and setting aside their security and strategic interests for the sake of deals with Iran.

Dennis Ross, US envoy for Iran, carried this message to the capitals of Saudi Arabia and the Gulf, last week.

But Obama's new Middle East design is not without powerful opponents:

1. Tehran itself will not let Washington dictate the limits of its expanding influence but insists on dialogue taking place amid "equality and mutual respect." This attitude also governs its nuclear aspirations. US diplomats will have to make the running to temper the ayatollahs rather than the other way round.

2. Cairo and Riyadh will resist with all their might the US bid to anoint Iran the crowning Middle East-Gulf power. Both perceive Iran's nuclearization as the inevitable outcome of this policy.

They are also extremely concerned by Oabana's public endorsement of Turkey as the senior Muslim power in the Eastern Mediterranean and Central Asia, a boost for Ankara's aspirations to resuscitate the Ottoman Empire.

3. Jerusalem will resist being cast into a peripheral role in the strategic and military processes going forward with regard to Iran, the Palestinians, Syria and their terrorist arms, Hizballah and Hamas, all of which bear pivotally on Israel's future existence. Like Egypt and Saudi Arabia, the Netanyahu government may not accept being crushed between two hostile regional powers, Iran and Turkey, whose aggressive pretensions Washington is promoting.

- Netanyahu is marshalling all Israel's resources, including an active role for President Peres, to avoid dropping into the role of second- or third-rate Middle East power whom no one consults.

Peres, whose rich diplomatic experience and international reputation make him a prime asset, has been pressed into service to become the first Israeli president to step out of his ceremonial role into active-policy-making.

- The Israeli prime minister will also take advantage of the interests Jerusalem shares with Cairo and Riyadh in frustrating the new Washington orientation – and not only with regard to Iran.

Netanyahu and Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak have arranged to put their heads together and are meeting before their separate trips to Washington.

- Israel has not abandoned its option of a military strike against Iran's nuclear installations and its economic infrastructure. US officials, led by the defense secretary, are accordingly pouring contempt on the extent of the damage Israel is capable of inflicting. Next, they will try and tie Israel's hands by discrediting Netanyahu and his administration.

- A final arrow in Netanyahu's quiver is the ability to enlist American public opinion, which is traditionally supportive and sympathetic to Israel, against Obama's Grand Middle East Design. He will seek to canvass support among friends in the US Congress and the Jewish community.

Comment: Those of us who live here understand the "new Obama policies" mean our destruction. I used to think otherwise, however, having interviewed many military, security and government individuals and after studtying the behavior of our next door enemies I realize the truth to my statements. Granted, sitting 7-10,000 miles away, surrounded by the comfort of one's trappings and security, not having to live next door to groups of people wanting you dead enables you to believe something else. this is your perception and it has become your truth. The difficulty is that perception is often not aligned with reality-I ask that you consider this before blindly supporting our demise-no matter how sensitive and caring you think you are.

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