debkafile's Washington sources reports Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu is misleading his ministers by presenting the direct talks opening with the Palestinians on Sept. 2 as a diplomatic victory. He has omitted to disclose that the Obama administration has reneged on the secret deals for paving the way to the talks it concluded with Netanyahu's senior aides Yitzhak Molcho and Uzi Arad.
Part of the deal was for Israel to line up with the Obama administration's non-reaction to Iran's activation of its Russian-built nuclear reactor at Bushehr last Saturday, Aug. 21. The United States promised, for its part, to deliver the Palestinians to the negotiating table for face -to-face talks after dropping their pre-conditions (determination of the 1967 lines as the final borders of a Palestinian state and a moratorium on Jewish construction on the West Bank and Jerusalem).
But most of all, the secret deal obliged Obama to refrain from twisting Israel's arm on behalf of the Palestinians should the dialogue founder – as it is widely expected to do.
Wit this deal in the bag, Netanyahu was able to showcase the Obama administration's endorsement of his diplomatic strategy and is rejection of Palestinian demands.
However, the deal was shown to have sprung a leak in the formal announcements in Washington of Friday, Aug. 20, debkafile discloses.
Whereas Secretary of State Hillary Clinton kept faith with Israel and turned down a last minute White House demand to insert this phrase in her announcement: "The United States could offer bridging proposals if necessary," into her announcement, the euphemistic phrase turned up in special presidential envoy George Mitchell's remarks elaborating on the Clinton statement.
The US sources consulted by debkafile Monday, Aug. 23, made no bones about White House intentions. Those "bridging proposals" referred to Obama's views on the most intractable disputes at issue between Israel and the Palestinians, i.e. final borders, Jerusalem and Israel's security demands. They would be put forward as friendly gestures to lift the talks out of a ditch, but Israeli would be left in not doubt that it must bow to the US president's take – or else.
In Ramallah, debkafile's sources report, Mahmoud Abbas, Chairman of the Palestinian Authority, was accused of failing to stand up to US pressure when he agreed to meet Netanyahu face-to-face on Sept, 2 after 20 months of ducking direct talks. Abbas assured them that the Palestinians had no cause for concern because the White House had promised him that the "bridging proposals" would be tilted in the Palestinians' favor and Netanyahu would be hustled into backing down on every important issue.
Our sources add that Washington also reneged in the first half of its commitment to Israel too. Instead of staying mum on the Bushehr plant when it was started up on Saturday, Aug. 22, as did the Netanyahu government, the state department spokesman responded a few hours later by saying that Washington sees no "proliferation risk" from the launch of Iran's first nuclear power plant.
This went down badly in Jerusalem as a form of US approval for the reactor, a surprising deviation from their accord and another ill omen that the Obama administration may seek to grind Israel down in the way it manages the talks with the Palestinians.
Obama is already under fire from several groups of Israel's defenders for what is regarded as his unfair and unbalanced treatment of Israel and favoritism for the Arab and Muslim side of the Middle East rift. The drift of Jewish and pro-Israeli voters away from the Democrats ahead of November's midterm congressional elections is reflected in more than one poll. According to the latest Pew Research Center report earlier this month, whereas in 2008 the Democrats enjoyed three times as many Jewish supporters as the Republicans. The ratio has now sunk to less than two to one.
In Israel, the US president's ratings, exceptionally high after his election, have plunged – unaffected by the effort Obama made to give Netanyahu a warm White House welcome in July.
The Israeli prime minister may be counting on the November midterm elections to hold Obama's hand from weighing too heavily in favor of the Palestinians – if the talks manage to stagger on that long.