It is quite likely that Netanyahu has unofficially halted construction in
by Barry Rubin
Here's a mystery: Why has the recent crisis in U.S.-Israel relations suddenly seemed to clear up?
Here's an answer: A secret understanding between Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Obama to stop construction in
There hasn't been — and won't be — any public confirmation of such an understanding, yet it seems quite likely that this has happened. In effect, Netanyahu is saying: We are cooperating in every way possible, so how can you complain about us?
Behind this argument is an Israeli belief that Obama will now be able to see the difference between a cooperative
Netanyahu has taken another step which was more public. At times in the past, he has defined the next stage of talks as being more limited — not including, for example, a discussion on the future status of
But any freeze on
Last October, the
In fact, the
Netanyahu and his government wanted to defuse the conflict, but the prime minister is constrained politically. While his government is in fact — contrary to frequent Western media reports — a national unity coalition between his Likud Party and the main left party, Labour, he is also dependent on the parliamentary votes of smaller right-wing parties. They would be extremely angry about a freeze on
It is interesting to note, by the way, that Netanyahu could not have made such an understanding with the
Netanyahu still maintains
The apparent move leaves three key players to decide their response.
First, will the PA in fact now go to indirect negotiations, having lost all excuses for refusing to do so?
Second, how will Israeli right-wingers react to the decision, both in terms of demonstrations and pulling out of support for the coalition? Since Netanyahu will insist that there is no formal freeze, this could undermine their efforts, while a desire for good relations with the
And third, will the
Even given all this, no progress on peace negotiations is likely given all the problems involved. One of these is the fact that almost half the territory the PA purports to represent is the Gaza Strip, ruled by the PA's rival, Hamas, which is totally against any peace with
Indeed, it is somewhat ironic that any return to indirect negotiations would be celebrated, since this is a step backward. After all, the PA (and its original parent body the PLO) and
Barry Rubin is director of the Global Research in International Affairs (GLORIA) Center and editor of the Middle East Review of International Affairs (MERIA) Journal.
Copyright - Original materials copyright (c) by the authors.