Haaretz previews the address Netanyahu will be giving on Sunday. This is supposed to be his big foreign policy speech in which he outlines his vision for the future. So what’s he going to say? Well, he’s going to commit his government to “the road map” though it is entirely unclear what he means by that. Near the end of the Haaretz article comes what I think is the most important point:
In his speech Sunday, at a bastion of Israel’s national-religious movement, Netanyahu will declare that the settlements in the West Bank are not an obstacle to peace.
In recent days Netanyahu has asked his aides to collect data on the settlements. Sources close to the prime minister said Netanyahu will not announce during his speech a freeze on construction in the settlements, as the United States has insisted Israel must do.
Channel 2 news reported Wednesday that Netanyahu has evaluated a number of ways of freezing settlement construction, including issuing a temporary (several months) hold on new construction starts in return for reciprocal measures on the part of the Palestinians and Arab states. Another option is declaring a freeze on construction in Jerusalem, or in the settlement blocs, but these are not expected to be mentioned in the speech.
Essentially, this is a “Fuck off” to the Obama Administration. Obama has made a freeze on settlement construction his first goal in negotiations with Israelis and Arabs. He and Secretary of State Clinton have repeated this about a dozen times now, including during his speech in Cairo last week. And a settlement freeze is, all things considered, a pretty modest first step in reaching a two-state solution.
So it seems Netanyahu is indicating that he will not be an easy party to work with. He’s not going to fall victim to Barack’s charisma. Well good for him, I guess. But if I were a State Department policymaker at this point, I’d start thinking about putting some real pressure on the Israelis. Maybe it’s time to start cutting aid.