Washington did not reveal the contents of the ultimatum or the list of demands reportedly presented to Netanyahu. Those conditions, however, could undermine the prime minister’s coalition ties to hard-line right-wing parties like Yisrael Beiteinu and Shas, as well as provoke strong criticism from within his own Likud faction. In case Netanyahu still fails to understand the situation, a U.S. official told Reuters yesterday that the Israeli leader’s rightist coalition leaves him in a “perilous” situation.
Netanyahu did not, however, promise that the housing units in Ramat Shlomo would not be built, or that his government’s policy on developing East Jerusalem would change. The construction plan is still pending, he said, and would not be implemented anytime in the next few years.
His adversaries in the Obama administration spotted a perfect opportunity to strike, to teach him a lesson in national honor – taking a leaf out of the diplomatic playbook of Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman and his deputy, Danny Ayalon. Biden was humiliated in Jerusalem, and America is now returning the favor.
Netanyahu knows that the fuel and spare parts for Israel’s air force, as well as the warning signals for missiles headed this way, all come from the United States. He also knows that Israel has no other allies with which to face the threat posed by the Islamic Republic.
Obama himself reportedly worded the message to be delivered to Netanyahu during his weekly Thursday meeting with Clinton, lest the argument be made that it was merely the secretary of state scolding the Israeli leader, and not the U.S. president himself.
A State Department spokesman described the conversation using phrases which bring to mind a teacher castigating a student.
This week presents Netanyahu with a difficult decision. He may choose to visit Washington as planned to speak at the AIPAC conference, which would embarrass the preeminent pro-Israel lobby and put it on a collision course with the Obama administration. Senior U.S. officials will likely decline meetings with him, unless he agrees to at least some of Washington’s conditions. Canceling his flight, however, will be interpreted as acknowledgment of the crisis in U.S.-Israel ties.