Report: Obama leverages Iran to extract Israeli concessions

Wednesday, August 26, 2009 |  Israel Today Staff

US President Barack Obama has more or less officially offered Israel firm pressure on Iran to halt its nuclear program if Israel agrees to stop building homes for Jews in areas claimed by the Palestinian Arabs.

That according to a report in London's Guardian newspaper that cited Israeli, US, Palestinian and European officials.

According to the proposal outlined in the article, Obama would put heavy diplomatic pressure on Iran and possibly even impose new sanctions if Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu halted most current construction projects and refused to approve any new ones in Judea, Samaria and the eastern half of Jerusalem.

Commentators noted that Obama appears to not see Iran's nuclear program as a threat to US security, and so feels free to use it as a bargaining chip to obtain concessions from Israel.

Last week a source in Netanyahu's office pointed out that the prime minister has already refused to approve any new building projects in the disputed areas since taking office in March. However, halting current building projects could result in a political and judicial storm at home.

Prior to meeting with US Middle East envoy George Mitchell in London on Wednesday, Netanyahu said Israel and the US were very close to smoothing out their differences regarding the natural growth of Jewish towns. The prime minister said the conclusion that issue and a resumption of official peace talks with the Palestinians should take place by the end of next month.

Meanwhile, a poll conducted by the Maagar Mohot survey institute on Sunday showed that a 52 percent majority of Israelis oppose any kind of building freeze in already established Jewish communities in Judea and Samaria, and especially in Jerusalem.

Nearly 75 percent of respondents said that if Israel gives in now on this issue, Obama will pressure Netanyahu to maintain the building freeze indefinitely, even if the Arabs fail to respond with the hoped for political gestures.

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