JERUSALEM, Israel – Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman isn’t buying U.S. President Barack Obama’s proposal for extending the 10-month construction ban in Judea and Samaria – the West Bank – which expired on September 26.
Obama has reportedly offered certain security guarantees, which among other things would “allow” Israeli troops to deploy to the Jordan Valley after Israel uproots an estimated 300,000 Israelis in Judea and Samaria and withdraws to the pre-1967 armistice lines in a final agreement with the Palestinians.
“The pressure won’t work,” the foreign minister told members of his Yisrael Beiteinu party on Monday. Lieberman said his party would stand with cabinet ministers who are against extending the ban, which he said is “the only way to solidify a majority against the freeze.”
Former Israeli Ambassador Yoram Ettinger, who was the Israeli Embassy in Washington's liaison to Congress, told CBN News he’s concerned that “past tragic errors” may be on the verge of being repeated.
“Anybody who is willing to trade tangible Israeli national security assets for a U.S. president’s promises hasn’t learned anything from the past and is ignorant of the American political system, which does not allow a president to commit America through personal guarantees,” Ettinger said.
“History has shown that the U.S. does not implement presidential guarantees unless it is in U.S., not Israeli, interests,” he said.
Lieberman said his last trip to the States provided some invaluable insight.
“During my recent visit to the U.S., I learned that Washington is planning to force a permanent agreement on Israel – two states for two peoples along the 1967 borders, plus or minus 3 or 4 percent of territory exchanged,” he said.
Lieberman said the proposed extension would allow the U.S., backed by the Quartet – United States, United Nations, European Union and Russia – along with the Arab League, to present Israel with an ultimatum.
“‘This is the [Obama administration’s] solution. Take it or leave it. If you don’t [accept it], there is a price – a confrontation with the international community,’” he said.
On Monday, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu urged cabinet ministers to refrain from “issuing statements” at a time when Israel is “in the midst of sensitive diplomatic contacts with the U.S. administration.”
Netanyahu denied media reports alleging he had already accepted the U.S. administration’s proposal.
“I do have an interest in responding calmly and responsibly to advance the diplomatic process,” Netanyahu said. “We will quietly consider the situation and the complex reality away from the spotlights,” he said.
But Ettinger said “such guarantees are carved on ice, not in stone.”
“Any prime minister who accepts such U.S. guarantees in a reckless manner undermines Israeli interests and U.S.-Israeli relations, which should be based on joint mutual interests and not on the Israeli-Palestinian track,” Ettinger said.
Meanwhile, several cabinet ministers from Netanyahu’s Likud party have already expressed their opposition to extending the freeze.
Among them are Strategic Affairs Minister Moshe Ya’alon, Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz, Education Minister Gideon Sa’ar, Transportation Minister Yisrael Katz, Communications Minister Moshe Kahlon, Vice Prime Minister Silvan Shalom, Information and Diaspora Affairs Minister Yuli Edelstein, Environmental Protection Minister Gilad Erdan, and Minister without Portfolio Yossi Peled.
Results of the most recent poll by the Dahaf Institute on behalf of Israel’s Channel 2 showed that a majority of Israelis – 54 percent – reject an extension of the building freeze, while 39 percent would consider going along with it.
In a statement issued on Sunday, Yesha Council chairman Danny Dayan called the Obama administration’s offer “a poison pill wrapped in colorful paper.” (The Yeshua Council is an umbrella organization representing Israeli residents of Judea and Samaria.)
“For an ally of Israel to act in such a manner signals a further troubling new direction by the American president, and we would urge Prime Minister Netanyahu to stand strong and continue to respect the vital needs of the people,” Dayan said, adding that the prime minister “must first serve his own nation, and he cannot choose the American president’s will over that of the Israeli people.”