Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is under increasing pressure from the United States to accept President Barack Obama’s peace proposal, Haaretz has reported today.
According to an Israeli source, Washington is becoming frustrated with Netanyahu’s behaviour, and feels that he is deliberately hindering US efforts to prevent the Palestinians from seeking UN recognition of statehood in September.
Obama’s proposal, outlined in a speech in May, suggested two states based on 1967 borders, with mutually agreed land swaps, with final status issues such as Jerusalem and refugees to be decided later.
Netanyahu’s envoy Isaac Molho was in Washington last week for talks with Clinton. The Americans proposed restarting talks based on Obama’s speech.
Washington also told Molho that if European initiatives such as France’s proposal for an international peace conference are to be blocked, Israel must offer a concrete starting point for negotiations, such as accepting Obama’s speech as a basis.
The Palestinian envoy Saeb Erekat was also in Washington last week and received the same proposal. Erekat said the Palestinians would resume talks on this basis of this proposal.
The American diplomat David Hale, temporary replacement for special envoy George Mitchell, is arriving in Israel this week to talk further with Erekat and Molho.
An Israeli source close to senior US officials said that there is a mounting sense of frustration with Netanyahu, after he publicly rejected Obama’s peace proposal. The source said the Americans are now speaking harshly of Netanyahu.
“He’s asking us to protect him in September,” said an American official according to the source, “but he isn’t giving us any tools with which to help him. Instaed of helping us, he’s making it harder for us.”
The White House has increased pressure since the talks of last week proved fruitless. Steve Simon, head of the US National Security Council’s Middle East desk, said on Friday that Netanyahu must reply to the US within a month regarding peace negotiations, knowing that this remark would be leaked, showing publicly Washington’s impatience with Netanyahu.
Netanyahu’s office, however, said it was “unaware of any American pressure or ultimatum.”
The Israeli Prime Minister flew to Italy yesterday to meet with Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, who has announced Italy’s decision to oppose the Palestinian’s UN bid for statehood.
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