Well, Israel's crisis with the US has intensified as President Obama apparently demands a written commitment from Israeli Prime Minister Bibi Netanyahu on confidence-building measures to restart the peace talks.
Simply put, America is placing pressure on Netanyahu – and he's coming back empty handed. This is the apparent upshot after two days of, what the Israeli media are reporting as especially charged feverish talks at the White House. It's being reported that Mr. Obama asked Mr. Netanyahu for clarifications on his positions regarding the negotiations with the Palestinians including his timetable for talks and the future of the so-called east Jerusalem construction freeze.
Obama seems to have, again according to the Israeli press, set demands that Israel will find hard to accept. These are; that Israel will not build in settlements even after end of 'freeze' in September, that West Bank territories will be handed over to Palestinians as agreed before intifada that started around 9 years ago, that hundreds of Palestinian prisoners are to be released in a gesture to Palestinian President Mahmud Abbas, that Israel will detail its positions on borders, Arab refugees and last but not least – Jerusalem. Add to this the stipulation that Israel will agree that permanent status negotiations be completed within two years of their onset and agreement to American involvement in negotiations on the core issues and you got yourself one massive headache if your part of the Israeli negotiation team.
Netanyahu, for his part, is putting the spin on the affair to be his protective bubble once he lands in Israel. He said he's optimistic despite the reports of a crisis with President Obama. Before boarding plane, he declared: “I think we have found golden mean between our desire to advance peace process with US and maintaining permanent policy of all Israeli governments.” He also said that Israel is on a high road, and that “some progress” had been made toward resolving the dispute with US.
This is the opposite of what the diplomatic sources are saying, who believe that no practical solution has been achieved during Netanyahu's visit.
Even Israel's Defense Minister, the former Prime Minister Ehud Barak is warning that the pressure from America could cause the Netanyahu Government to fall. Who knows – maybe that's what some people want – especially the some in the Palestinian circles.
I'll have the latest for you on tomorrows Harvest Show – so join us then!
Middle East Correspondent