Obama and the Middle East
Jonathan Marcus in BBC News
- Something has changed in Washington. This new US President, Barack Obama, is unlike any that an Israeli leader has faced before.
President Obama has backed off from his stated positions on various issues. He is not the first president to cave in to expediency. Some call it pragmatism. It would be interesting to see if he holds firm on this very thorny one.
Would the hard-liners in Israel allow Netanyahu to accept the new American policy? We can expect Israel to crank up the threat from Iran. And we must not forget about fanatics in Hamas. Would they try to sabotage the negotiations in which Mahmoud Abbas is engaged? What the new American position demonstrates is that the powerful AIPAC failed to have its way, and that is something to cheer about.
Regardless of how it plays out, Obama Administration's position has been clearly and unequivocally announced about one of the primary points of dispute -- construction of settlements in the West Bank.
The US wants a halt to settlement building. Now.
Mr Netanyahu seems to have at least half got the message.
He is trying to devise some sort of compromise whereby Israel will remove outposts seen as illegal even under Israeli law, but will continue to build in existing settlements to cope with what Israeli spokesmen call their "natural growth".
But this "natural growth" argument is not getting any traction in Washington.
The message has been repeated again and again; no settlement building - period.