Obama backs Israel unity government headed by Netanyahu

US president Barack Obama has bought Likud leader Binyamin Netanyahu’s program for attacking the Palestinian issue by first building a strong West Bank economy, debkafile‘s Washington sources report. For its execution, Washington is in favor of Netanyahu forming a unity government in partnership with Kadima’s Tzipi Livni and Labor’s Ehud Barak.
Messages to this effect reached the three Israeli leaders over the weekend. It was picked up on by the outgoing prime minister Ehud Olmert, who invited Netanyahu to join his next consultation with Livni and Barak on handling the Hamas truce talks in Cairo. Making it a foursome effectively starts the transition between the Jerusalem administrations.
Our sources also reveal that the White House decided after due deliberation to put the Palestinian peace issue on a back burner in the first year of the Obama presidency. Its top priorities must now be the economy and Afghanistan-Pakistan. The president’s national security adviser Gen. James Jones argued that anyway, the Palestinians are split between two rival administrations and the potential Palestinian state is fragmented between the Gaza enclave backed by Iran and the and the West Bank which is headed by a weak leader, Mahmoud Abbas. The basic conditions for peace diplomacy are therefore lacking.
Special Middle East envoy George Mitchell was therefore instructed to focus on plans for establishing a firm economy on the West Bank with several hundred million dollars of US aid. Taking the opposite direction from previous Israeli governments, the Likud leader persuaded Washington that giving West Bank Palestinians a sense of prosperity would produce more results than going straight for the tough issues such as settlement evacuation. With a robust economy, the Palestinians have a better chance of building healthy government.
Mitchell was also directed to expedite the creation and training of a Palestinian security force to sustain a pro-Western administration on the West Bank.
With these two elements in place, the Obama administration hopes the future will throw up a Palestinian leader able to take over from Mahmoud Abbas and lead negotiations with Israel for a peace serving both their interests.

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