Benjamin Netanyahu delivered an unequivocal message to the Obama administration this morning, rejecting completely a call from Barack Obama to stop building settlements in Jerusalem. The rejection creates a standoff between the two traditional allies in the region and all but halts Obama’s efforts to force Israel back to the bargaining table (via JWF):
Aides to Israel’s prime minister said Thursday that he has officially rejected President Barack Obama’s demand to suspend all construction in contested east Jerusalem, a move that threatens to entrench a year-old deadlock in Israeli-Palestinian peacemaking.
The aides said Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu delivered his government’s position to Obama over the weekend, ahead of the scheduled arrival later Thursday of the U.S. president’s special Mideast envoy, George Mitchell. They spoke on condition of anonymity because the contact between the two leaders was private.
Washington had put Mitchell’s shuttle diplomacy on hold for more than a month as it awaited a reply from Israel. Aides to Netanyahu provided no information on whether the Israeli leader had offered any other concessions to the Palestinians in an effort to restart the long-stalled talks.
The AP sounds almost disbelieving in reporting this, adding in this odd paragraph:
But with Israel eager to ease tensions with its closest and most important ally, it appeared likely the Jewish state tempered its rejection with other confidence building gestures toward the Palestinians.
Really? “It appeared likely” isn’t even rumor-mongering. It’s complete fantasy by the writer. Nothing in the article reports on “gestures,” confidence-building or otherwise, and AP reporter Amy Teibel doesn’t provide even an anonymous source for the reporting. It’s nonsensical spin aimed at somehow keeping this from becoming an abject diplomatic failure by Barack Obama.
Netanyahu just taught Obama a lesson, which is that a nation that has been surrounded by terrorists and other enemies for decades isn’t going to be intimidated by an Ivory Tower academic, even if he sits in the Oval Office. After Obama’s shameful treatment of Netanyahu on his visit to Washington DC, he could hardly have expected any better response. Instead of cowing Netanyahu into submission, Obama has alienated him — and as a side effect, made Netanyahu more popular at home because of it.
That’s what makes Teibel’s reporting so disingenuous. If Netanyahu was so eager to “ease tensions” with Obama, he would have found some sort of face-saving compromise for his ally. Instead, Netanyahu just told Obama to pound sand.