Pressure from US President Barack Obama to destroy small Jewish communities in Judea and Samaria may be sowing the seeds of discontent in Israel’s tenuous national unity government.
Over the weekend, Defense Minister Ehud Barak repeated his intention to remove so-called “illegal” Jewish outposts across those disputed territories.
Voice of Israel Radio reported on Sunday that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had said behind closed doors that he “backs Barak” in that endeavor.
According to Likud Party sources cited in the report, Netanyahu caved to pressure to remove the outposts when he met with Obama last week, and promised to begin doing so upon his return to Israel. Indeed, less than a day after Netanyahu’s return late last week, a small Jewish community in Samaria consisting of five houses and a synagogue was forcibly uprooted.
On Saturday evening, one of Netanyahu’s strongest supporters in Likud, Strategic Affairs Minister Moshe Yaalon, fearful that the outpost evacuations could lead to the destruction of more established communities, let it be known on national television that he strongly opposed giving in to American pressure regarding where Jews are allowed or not allowed to build homes.
In an interview with Israel’s Channel 2 News, Yaalon insisted that Israel will not allow the US to dictate its policies, and was adamant that “settlement construction will not be halted.”
To those in the US government who are concerned that approach will preclude peace, Yaalon noted, “Settlements are not the reason that the peace process is failing, they were never an obstacle, not at any stage. Even when Israel pulled out of [Palestinian] territory, the terror continued. Even when we uprooted [Jewish] communities, we got 'Hamastan.'”
A day later, Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman set himself up against idea of full surrender for “peace” by declaring before the weekly cabinet meeting that Israel will never return to its pre-1967 borders.
“A return to the borders of '67 today, as we are being pressured to do, would not end the conflict, would not guarantee peace or security," Lieberman said. "It would simply move the conflict to within the '67 borders.”
It is not know what Obama and US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton told Netanyahu behind closed doors, but in front of reporters both demanded that the Israeli leader halt all Jewish “settlement activity” so they could move ahead with their regional peace initiative.