U.S. President Barack Obama's demands during his meeting with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu last Tuesday point to an intention to impose a permanent settlement on Israel and the Palestinians in less than two years, political sources in Jerusalem say.
Israeli officials view the demands that Obama made at the White House as the tip of the iceberg under which lies a dramatic change in U.S. policy toward Israel.
Of 10 demands posed by Obama, four deal with Jerusalem: opening a Palestinian commercial interests office in East Jerusalem, an end to the razing of structures in Palestinian neighborhoods in the capital, stopping construction in Jewish neighborhoods in East Jerusalem, and not building the neighborhood of Ramat Shlomo.
But another key demand - to discuss the dispute's core issues during the indirect talks that are planned - is perceived in Jerusalem as problematic because it implies that direct negotiations would be bypassed. This would set up a framework through which the Americans would be able to impose a final settlement.
It is not just Obama's demands that are perceived as problematic, but also the new modus operandi of American diplomacy. The fact that the White House and State Department have been in contact with Israel's European allies, first and foremost Germany, is seen as part of an effort to isolate Israel and put enormous political pressure on it.
Israeli officials say that the Obama administration's new policy contradicts commitments made by previous administrations, as well as a letter from George W. Bush in 2004 to the prime minister at the time, Ariel Sharon. According to this view, the new policy is also incongruous with the framework posed by Bill Clinton in 2000.
Senior Israeli sources say that as a result of the U.S. administration's policies, the Palestinians will toughen their stance and seriously undermine the peace process' chances of success.
Moreover, sources in Jerusalem say that the new American positions undermine the principle of credibility that has guided U.S. foreign policy since the end of World War II. Ignoring specific promises made to its Israeli ally would make other American allies lose trust in its commitments to them.
Israeli officials warn that if the United States shirks its past commitments, the willingness of the Israeli public to put its trust in future American guarantees will be undermined - as will the superpower's regional and international standing.
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