In a potential breakthrough for Mideast peace talks, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is asking his cabinet to back a U.S. proposal to freeze West Bank settlement building for three months in exchange for security incentives from Washington (including 20 advanced fighter jets worth $3 billion). While the deal could help revive negotiations with the Palestinians, it's already created waves: Palestinian officials have privately complained that the U.S. is bribing Israel. What is Washington's real agenda — and how will this play out? (Watch a Russia Today discussion about the offer)
The U.S. is playing hardball with Israel: The Obama administration had to offer Israel some "goodies" to sweeten the deal, say the editors of The Economist, but that hardly makes this "bribery." In fact, if you think about it, this proposal could also be interpreted as blackmail. Israel used to enjoy "an unconditional American promise to maintain its military edge," but Obama is suggesting that those days are over if Netanyahu doesn't freeze settlements and hammer out final borders for a Palestinian state in the West Bank.
"Is America bribing Bibi or blackmailing him?"
Washington is coddling Israel: Obama is offering a "craven deal" that's humiliating — and won't accomplish anything, writes Christopher Hitchens at Slate. The settlement moratorium doesn't include the "crucial precincts" of East Jerusalem. And Netanyahu, under pressure from Israel's right wing, can simply "run out the clock" on the three-month freeze.
"Israel's Shabbas Goy"
Obama is offering Israel carrots and sticks at the same time: Everyone is talking about the incentives Obama offered Netanyahu, say the editors of Debka File, but the president is making promises to the Palestinians, too. And if Israel doesn't strike a deal with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas on the two states' final borders before the three-month settlement moratorium expires, the U.S. will draw the borders itself and "present its own map to both sides" — and Obama's map is certain to look better to the Palestinians than to Israel.
"Obama to present US Israel-Palestinian border map within 3 months"