Israel to US: Stop favoring the Palestinians

In retrospect, the Netanyahu/Obama meeting of a fortnight ago may be seen as a turning point in Israel-US relations. The fact that the government of Israel feels it even has to ask this question does not bode well for the future.

Barak Ravid writing in Haaretz reports:

Tensions between Washington and Jerusalem are growing after the U.S. administration's demand that Israel completely freeze construction in all West Bank settlements. Israeli political officials expressed disappointment after Tuesday's round of meetings in London with George Mitchell, U.S. President Barack Obama's envoy to the Middle East.

"We're disappointed," said one senior 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. The Israeli officials attributed the unyielding U.S. stance to the speech Obama will make in Cairo this Thursday, in which he is expected to deliver a message of reconciliation to the Arab and Muslim worlds.

The speech in Cairo, after a stop to bow before Saudi King Abdullah again, will no doubt be conciliatory toward Israel, but firm on the settlements. It is a balancing act that Obama is not doing a good job of so far because you cannot appease both sides in this conflict. Obama, the master straddler, has no place to hide on the Israeli-Palestinian question and he will find that he will get no favors from the Arabs simply for showing empathy toward the Palestinians by taking a hardline stance against the settlements.