Special to WorldTribune.com
JERUSALEM – U.S. President Barack Obama has demanded a timetable for an Israeli withdrawal from the West Bank.
Israeli sources said Obama, scheduled to arrive in Israel on March 20, wants a detailed Israeli withdrawal plan from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu during the president’s visit. The sources said the Israeli plan would be considered in what could be an imminent U.S. initiative to establish a Palestinian state in the West Bank in 2014.
“Obama has made it clear to Netanyahu that his visit is not about photo-ops, but the business of Iran and a Palestinian state,” a source said. “The implication is that if Israel won’t give him something he can work with, then he’ll act on his own.”
The sources said Obama’s demand has sparked concern in the office of the Israeli prime minister. They said Netanyahu has been unable to form a coalition amid a boycott by left-wing parties and an alliance by two new movements – Yesh Atid and Jewish Home – with 31 seats in the 120-member parliament and opposed to major territorial concessions in the West Bank.
“The ties between Yesh Atid and Jewish Home are strengthening,” Uri
Ariel, the No. 2 member in Jewish Home, said.
So far, Netanyahu has been unable to woo any parties except for the
U.S.-supported “The Movement,” led by former Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni.
The prime minister has received a two-week extension from President Shimon
“In these past four weeks I tried to form the broadest possible
government,” Netanyahu said. “But the main reason that I have not managed to
complete the task by today is because there is a boycott of a certain
Netanyahu was referring to a demand by Yesh Atid to ban ultra-Orthodox
from the next government. The ultra-Orthodox comprise nearly 20 seats in the
On March 1, the Israeli daily Makor Rishon reported that the next
Netanyahu government would destroy numerous Jewish communities in the West
Bank. The newspaper quoted Likud negotiators as saying that the plan
depended on Yesh Atid ending its alliance with Jewish Home, led by Naftali
“We are going to difficult decisions,” a Likud negotiator was quoted as
telling a Yesh Atid parliamentarian. “If you do not break up your pact with
Bennett we won’t be able to uproot communities if there is a need for
difficult decisions. Together we can do it.”
Other Israeli newspapers, quoting Likud sources, carried similar
reports. They said the first step by Netanyahu would be the dismantling of
Jewish communities in the West Bank deemed isolated.
The sources said the White House warned that Obama’s forthcoming visit
could characterize U.S. relations with Israel over the next four years. They
said Obama aides stressed that Congress, which approved $3.1 billion in
military aid to Israel for 2013, supported the establishment of a
Palestinian state as a U.S. priority.
“The Obama people are making this a litmus test of Netanyahu’s
leadership and credibility,” the Israeli source said. “Obama supporters in
Congress have sent Netanyahu a similar message.”