Washington, D.C., March 25, 2010) -- The Obama administration this week applied intense and unprecedented pressure on the Netanyahu government to make huge unilateral concessions to the Palestinians even before direct peace talks begin.
One advisor who has been briefed on the talks told me: "President Obama is insisting that Israel sign a document that specifies Israel's commitment to a peace deal with the Palestinians that will be based on 1967 lines. This means no building in Jerusalem, and a time table to address other core issues, like the 'right of return.'" The source, one that I trust a great deal, also noted that President Obama spoke by phone with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, French President Nicolas Sarkozy, and British Prime Minister Gordon Brown to make sure each of them are on board with pressuring the Israelis to make such unprecedented unilateral concessions.
The good news: Netanyahu had a very good week. He looked strong and principled. He was gracious and diplomatic. And he stood his ground. He did not cave into the intense pressure from the White House and State Department. He refused to divide Jerusalem. In a masterful AIPAC speech, he calmly and clearly explained why Israel would never give up the right to build homes in her capital. He sent the U.S. and the world a straightforward and sobering message that if they don't move quickly and decisively to stop Iran from getting the Bomb, then Israel will do it herself. He didn't threaten. He didn't swagger. He simply stated the facts, in their historic context, and nobody does it better than Netanyahu. What's more, he did all this with Defense Minister Ehud Barak standing in solidarity at his side, which was important because it sent the White House - and his critics back in Israel, and enemies back in Iran -- the message that the Israeli government is united. No small thing. Barak came to Camp David with Yasser Arafat in 2000 willing carve up Jerusalem and give away the West Bank. God bless Netanyahu for opposing this approach in principle, and for having and (thus far, at least) maintaining Barak's support in the process.
The AIPAC speech, plus the warm and engaging meetings with Members of Congress significantly strengthened Netanyahu's hand. It reconnected him in a very important way with grassroots pro-Israel activists from all over the U.S., Jews and Christians alike. It also significantly strengthened his alliance with Congress, which continues to prove itself as the pro-Israel end of Pennsylvania Avenue. Both are critical in counter-balancing the hostile Obama administration.