While in Washington the U.S. administration is trying to reduce tensions with Israel, in Jerusalem they go out of their way to depict in war paint the demands President Barack Obama put to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Political sources in Jerusalem told Haaretz's Ari Shavit this week that hiding behind the American demands is an intention to impose a permanent settlement on the two sides in less than two years. This is being presented as a troubling change in U.S. policy toward Israel, while the Americans issue veiled yet serious threats about the risks that allegedly loom for them if their credibility in the Middle East is lost.

The top U.S. political officials and that country's defense establishment recently made it clear that the continued Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the perpetuation of the occupation in the territories undermine the strategic interests of the United States (and Israel as well). The stern demands made of the Israeli government reflect Obama's willingness to invest a significant effort in defense of these interests. It seems he concluded that the endless dialogue with the Israeli government does not push forward anything unless an American peace plan is formulated.

This is not necessarily a bad thing. The possibility that the United States will propose a plan of its own and seek to convince the sides to accept it, or even impose it, is not the worst of all possibilities.

However, it is obvious that a settlement reached through negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians is preferable to an imposed settlement, where not accepting it would involve an especially intense confrontation with the international community and deepen Israel's isolation. The only way to prevent an imposed settlement must be through a realistic Israeli peace plan that is similar to that of the United States and based on agreements and understandings reached by previous governments. It must be based on principles that, obvious to everyone, are imperative for a settlement.

A government that seeks to prevent an imposed settlement must not only bring to the fore serious propositions and demands of its own, it must avoid at all costs unilateral steps that signal an intention to foil all chances for an agreed settlement. An imposed settlement may prove to be the least worst alternative when compared with no settlement and a continuation of the situation. Those who fear an imposed solution must immediately present an Israeli peace plan.