What price will Netanyahu have to pay for U.S. support?
Obama's peace plan won't come until August, what gives Netanyahu another three months in which he will be able to stick to the status quo without any substantive concessions.
Israel's foreign policy is now focused on one target: To preserve the support of the U.S. and key countries in Europe ahead of the diplomatic confrontation with the Palestinians in the United Nations, and in case a third intifada breaks out.
This is what's keeping Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu busy these days and will be at the center of his trip to Washington this week. The key question is this: What price will Netanyahu have to pay to President Barack Obama in exchange for American support?
The Israeli leadership is steadfast in its "no-partner" approach, which argues that there is no one to talk to on the Palestinian side, and nothing to talk about. Disagreements at the top only revolve around the issue of tactics. Defense Minister Ehud Barak insists that Israel must issue a diplomatic initiative that will promise the Palestinians a state on "1967 territory," with conditions and caveats. Barak believes that such a promise will lift political pressure on Israel.
On the other hand, Vice Prime Minister Moshe Ya'alon believes Israel is in a good position, that the Arab regimes are either collapsing or weakening, and Netanyahu must not offer concessions which will only show weakness and have no return.
Netanyahu is leaning toward Ya'alon's position, which argues that a territorial concession at this time, or even talk of it, is dangerous and damaging. The Arab Spring which is exciting the imagination of Barack Obama appears to Netanyahu to be a threatening nightmare. But this is a difficult position to sell to the world and Netanyahu will need to make the pill sweeter, so his American hosts will be able to show the Europeans and the Arabs that they received something from Israel.
Obama has signaled that he will, for the time being, avoid issuing a detailed peace plan, at least until August. This means that Netanyahu has bought another three months in which he will be able to stick to the status quo without any substantive concessions.
The question is whether the security situation in the territories will remain calm, or whether the disturbances in Jerusalem this weekend suggest a broader confrontation, as the events of Naqba Day in May 2000 signaled the second intifada that September.
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