Netanyahu’s backing for outpost removals unrelated to his Iran deal with Obama
A high-ranking Israeli delegation is to meet US officials in London with a defense ministry plan for evacuating some 24 unauthorized outposts on the West Bank. This plan was prepared ahead of defense minister Ehud Barak’s visit to Washington next week and backed solidly by prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu and foreign minister Avigdor Lieberman. The first 10 warnings of impending demolitions were distributed Monday, May 25. They dropped Netanyahu in hot water at a meeting of his own Likud faction.
To persuade the critics, Netanyahu implied without saying so outright that he had won US backing or cooperation for an Israeli offensive against Iran and that the price tag was the removal of West Bank outposts.
He suggested he was upholding the commitments of former governments for their removal so as not to impair efforts to curb Iran’s nuclear program and went on to stress the importance of “our relations with the United States” with regard to “the future of the state.”
“Our situation today is not the same as it was in 1996-99 [his first term as prime minister], and we need to bend our order of priorities to national needs and unite to ward off the danger,” he said. “There are reasons for preserving our good relations with the United States.”
debkafile‘s political sources say this implied link was disingenuous.
Netanyahu also said: “It is the job of the leadership to lift the [Iranian] danger. If not us, then no one will.”
debkafile‘s Washington sources contradict Netanyahu’s interpretation of his shared understanding with US president Barack Obama about the need to prevent Iran from attaining a nuclear capability.
This understanding, they say, was confined purely to diplomatic efforts (for which the two leaders set a six-month limit). A unilateral military attack by Israel was no part of it. In fact, an Israeli strike would spark a serious crisis between Jerusalem and Washington, as severe, some Washington sources say, as the 1956 crisis which flared when Israel joined the Britain and France in attacking Egypt behind America’s back.
The bottom line here, say debkafile‘s military sources, is that however many outposts are evacuated, whether authorized or not, it will not bring the Obama administration around to backing an Israeli strike against Iran.
But it does have a key political aspect: Netanyahu agreed to support a plan to evict some unauthorized outposts, many of which are makeshift shacks, in order bring Barak and his Labor party into his government coalition earlier this year. Under fire from the left wing of his party, the defense minister tested their partnership by calling in on this commitment. He particularly wants to go to Washington armed with the outpost plan.
Netanyahu delivered on his deal with Barak by publicly denying that the defense minister was acting independently on the outposts and lining up with him in confirming that they would be dealt with – if possible through dialogue with the settlers. “We are a law-abiding country,” the prime minister said. He went on to repeat his pledge to allow construction in the legal settlements to accommodate “natural growth.”
This too is at issue with the Obama administration. However, Netanyahu told the Likud deputies that “Israel and the US differ in the way of friends.”
Clearly, the Likud prime minister prefers to confront challenges at home and abroad alongside the Labor leader and, therefore, at the head of a stable government.