As this issue closed, DEBKA-Net-Weekly's Washington sources reported that President Barack Obama had reconsidered his position on the crisis with Israel and resolved to halt the downward spiral. The White House is working on a document for putting the friendly relations back on an even keel. Netanyahu has not yet decided whether to travel to Washington to address the AIPAC annual conference next Monday, March 22. But before he does, he will ascertain that the administration has withdrawn the threat to close its doors to him.
The White House also told the Palestinians it was time to stop their "over-the-top" utterances against Israel and street outbreaks and start cooperating with the US and Israel in their effort to restart peace talks.
Earlier, DEBKA-Net-Weekly ran the following Special Report:
For Israeli prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu, two big bones of contention with the Obama administration have been blown up by Washington into matters of life or death. They are the status of Jerusalem as Israel's undivided capital and the vital need to eliminate Iran's capacity for building a nuclear weapon. Netanyahu's coalition government would not last long if he bent to Washington's will on these two issues. Furthermore, his surrender would in itself spark a deadly chain of events.
Israeli intelligence chiefs put dire predictions of catastrophe before the seven members of Israel's inner cabinet, which spent 96 hours this week reviewing the spiraling crisis in relations with Washington.
According to DEBKA-Net-Weekly's sources, they warned that if Israel let itself be bullied into submission by the Obama administration, it would become fair game for its enemies.
Iranian-backed Hizballah and the Palestinian extremist Hamas would take Israel's loss of its senior ally, the US under president Barack Obama, as an open an invitation for an ever-expanding campaign of terror, thereby laying the ground for Tehran to consolidate its proxy's grip on Beirut, and move in on the Gaza Strip and the West Bank.
Iran's president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad already jumped in this week with this comment: "The Islamic revolution of Iran is a humane revolution reaching beyond the geographic boundaries of Iran. Our existence and our breathing space require that we expand our borders of conflict even closer to the command centers of the enemy. One who sits and waits for the enemy to approach… will be dressed in the robe of misery."
Ahmadinejad issues battle cry for Israel's weakened state
This was the Iranian president's battle cry, a call to exploit the friction between Washington and Jerusalem for "expanding our borders of conflict" and making Israel the one "who sits and waits for the enemy to approach." It was the first time an Iranian leader had openly articulated a frankly aggressive doctrine beyond the familiar Islamic Republic's goal to "export of revolution" through terrorist surrogates.If Obama aimed at deterring Israel from attacking Iran, he misfired and achieved the reverse effect. His policy has brought the Iranian peril out in the open and forces Israel to hurry up and pre-empt it.
"Obama has decided to break Israel and scrap it as a factor in US-Iranian diplomacy," said a senior minister to DEBKA-Net-Weekly this week. He refused to speak openly because the ministers were under Netanyahu's orders to refrain from commenting on the crisis with Washington.
Another Israeli official said: "President Obama denies there is a crisis in the relations. He said [n an interview to Fox on March 17]: 'Israel is one of our closest allies and that will not go away.'
"But let's put the facts on the table," said the Israeli source: "Not only is the crisis there, but we are dealing with an administration whose behavior is irrational – or that's how it looks from here. The US president is willing to bend facts for the sake of bringing the Israeli government to its knees. That, we cannot accept."
This Israeli comment, say our sources, referred to Vice President Joe Biden's angry remark to Netanyahu in Jerusalem on March 8: "What you are doing here undermines the security of our troops who are fighting in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan," and Gen. David Petraeus' reply to a question from the Republican Senator Lindsey Graham of South California on the length of time available before Iran was able to build a nuclear weapon. The general said: "It has, thankfully, slid to the right a bit, and it is not this calendar year, I don't think."
Pummeling Israel does not benefit the United States
This answer, which is not borne out by intelligence data, was seen in Jerusalem and most other Middle East capitals as another US attempt to dodge the sanctions option and play for time to engage in more fruitless negotiations with Iran.
How does this benefit the United States? It doesn't. On March 18, the day US secretary of state Hillary Clinton visited Moscow, prime minister Vladimir Putin administered a slap in the face to Washington by announcing the first unit of the Bushehr nuclear power plant in Iran, constructed by Russian experts, might be put into operation this summer – in direct breach of his pledges to the US and Israel.
Our Jerusalem sources stress that no Israeli government, right, center or left, will ever accept Washington's attempt to link Jewish settlements to the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan or the Islamic Republic of Iran's race for a nuclear weapon. This false theory was drummed up by the most anti-Israel elements in the West.
Its aim is to tie Israel down and strip it of the motivation and resources for withstanding the very real threats to its existence which Iran, Syria, Hizballah and Hamas do not trouble to conceal.
Binyamin Netanyahu feels he has leaned over backwards to meet Barack Obama's demands and deeply resents the US president's accusations of Israeli "unhelpfulness" to the peace process. He endorsed the US president's two-state doctrine (Israel and Palestinian) living in peace and security, accepted a 10-month settlement construction moratorium and, in keeping with his Economic Peace Program, has made vital contributions to the West Bank's current prosperity under the Palestinian Authority, as well as handing over West Bank cities to Palestinian rule.
Yet Washington insists that the improvements are solely due to Palestinian prime minister Salam Fayyad's successful leadership and ignore Israel's initiative.
The bottomless pit of US demands
Now, Obama wants more Israeli incentives to coax the stubborn Mahmoud Abbas into gracing peace negotiations with his presence, while refusing to credit Israel with any previous contributions to the process. The feeling in Jerusalem is that Israel is being pushed toward a bottomless pit; Washington will not be satisfied until Israel unloads all its strategic assets to meet Obama's insatiable demands.
This week, Israel's leaders decided to draw the line, after he laid down three preconditions for restoring normal relations with Jerusalem:
1. The 10-month freeze on West Bank settlement construction must include East Jerusalem;
2. It must be renewed after running out in September for the duration of peace negotiations with the Palestinians;
3. More Israeli concessions are needed to tempt Mahmoud Abbas.
The Netanyahu government made the gesture of offering to halt Jewish purchases of land and property in, or add Jewish residents, to Arab neighborhoods in Jerusalem in the course of negotiations with the Palestinians.
DEBKA-Net-Weekly's Washington sources report that the White House rejected any form of compromise and wants Israel to comply with all three demands in full.