Friday, 1 October 2010

US Incensed by Israel’s Rejection to Obama Offer, Officials Deny

01/10/2010 White House officials denied on Thursday reports that US President Barack Obama sent a letter to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in which he vowed to support Israel in negotiations with the Palestinians in return for a two-month extension on the construction freeze in settlements, YNet reported.

The officials say the letter was just a draft being debated by diplomats representing Israel and the US, and that its content would only be implemented if agreed upon by both parties.

However, Haaretz reported Friday that the United States is reportedly incensed over Netanyahu's rejection of the draft letter that would have extended the freeze on West Bank settlement construction, formulated by advisers to the U.S. and Israeli leaders.

The letter, written by Obama's advisers and by Netanyahu's and Defense Minister Ehud Barak's adviser Isaac Molho, would have had Israel freezing construction in the settlements for another 60 days in exchange for unprecedented U.S. political and security assistance.

Senior American officials said they were frustrated by Netanyahu's conduct in the affair. "We're not buying the excuse of political difficulties anymore," a senior U.S. official told his Israeli counterpart.

"The Americans said Netanyahu's conduct is humiliating the president," said a senior European diplomat who met with senior U.S. officials in New York last week.

The details of the letter were revealed by senior researcher David Makovsky on the website of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy.

According to the report, the letter included benefits crucial to “Israel's security” that Netanyahu has been demanding for years. For example, the United States pledged to support Israel's position on stationing Israeli occupation troops in the Jordan valley after the establishment of a Palestinian state, in order to prevent “weapons smuggling”.

The United States also would not ask Israel to further extend the building moratorium and would pledge that the issue of settlements would be dealt with only as part of final-status talks with the Palestinians, the letter reportedly said.

The United States also reportedly would veto any UN Security Council resolutions on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict this year, would upgrade Israel's defense capabilities after the “peace agreement”, and would increase ‘security’ assistance. This reportedly would include providing Israel with advanced fighter jets and early warning systems, including satellites. The U.S. also would start talks with Arab countries toward a regional agreement vis-a-vis Iran.

According to an Israeli source involved in the details of the affair, Obama adviser Dennis Ross was very insulted by Netanyahu's conduct and considered it "treason."

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