Jonathan Cook reports:
The disclosure of the details of a letter reportedly sent by President Barack Obama last week to Benjamin Netanyahu, the Israeli prime minister, will cause Palestinians to be even more skeptical about U.S. and Israeli roles in the current peace talks.
According to the leak, Obama made a series of extraordinarily generous offers to Israel, many of them at the expense of the Palestinians, in return for a single minor concession from Netanyahu: a two-month extension of the partial freeze on settlement growth.
A previous 10-month freeze, which ended a week ago, has not so far been renewed by Netanyahu, threatening to bring the negotiations to an abrupt halt. The Palestinians are expected to decide whether to quit the talks over the coming days.
Netanyahu was reported last week to have declined the U.S. offer.
The White House has denied that a letter was sent, but, according to the Israeli media, officials in Washington are privately incensed by Netanyahu’s rejection.
The disclosures were made by an informed source: David Makovsky, of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, a close associate of Dennis Ross, Obama’s chief adviser on the Middle East, who is said to have initiated the offer.
The letter’s contents have also been partly confirmed by Jewish U.S. senators who attended a briefing last week from Ross.
According to Makovsky, in return for the 60-day settlement moratorium, the U.S. promised to veto any UN Security Council proposal on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict over the next year, and committed to not seek any further extensions of the freeze. The future of the settlements would be addressed only in a final agreement.
The White House would also allow Israel to keep a military presence in the West Bank’s Jordan Valley, even after the creation of a Palestinian state; continue controlling the borders of the Palestinian territories to prevent smuggling; provide Israel with enhanced weapons systems and security guarantees and increase its billions of dollars in annual aid; and create a regional security pact against Iran.