Help, I’m confused.
At the start of the month, the buzz was that the Obama administration planned to pressure Israel by linking tough action against Iran’s nuclear ambitions with progress on talks with the Palestinians.
Two weeks ago, Alon Pinkas, a former Israeli consul general in New York who has been advising Benjamin Netanyahu on U.S.-related issues, told JTA’s
Ron Kampeas Leslie Susser: "I think the Americans may well try to link the level of cooperation on Iran to progress with the Palestinians." Then, a week or so later, Yediot reported that Rahm Emanuel had told a U.S. Jewish leader that "any treatment of the Iranian nuclear problem will be contingent upon progress in the negotiations and an Israeli withdrawal from West Bank territory."
As for Netanyahu, he seemed to balk at the linkage approach when he spoke to Jeffrey Goldberg just before being sworn in:
“We intend to move on the Palestinian track independent of what happens with Iran, and I hope the U.S. moves to stop Iran from gaining nuclear weapons regardless of what happens on the Palestinian track.”
Why am I confused?
Because today The Washington Post has a story turning the entire linkage issue on its head. Now we’re being told that it is the Israelis who are insisting on tying the two fronts together, and the Americans who are warning against such an approach:
The new Israeli government will not move ahead on the core issues of peace talks with the Palestinians until it sees progress in U.S. efforts to stop Iran’s suspected pursuit of a nuclear weapon and limit Tehran’s rising influence in the region, according to top government officials familiar with Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s developing policy on the issue.
"It’s a crucial condition if we want to move forward," said Deputy Foreign Minister Daniel Ayalon, a member of the Israeli parliament and former ambassador to the United States. "If we want to have a real political process with the Palestinians, then you can’t have the Iranians undermining and sabotaging."
The emerging Israeli position, a significant change from that of previous governments, presents a challenge for President Obama, who has made quick progress on Palestinian statehood a key foreign policy goal. Obama is also trying to begin engagement with Iran as part of a broad effort to slow its nuclear program and curtail its growing strength in the Middle East.
U.S. officials are wary of linking the two issues and, if anything, would like to do the reverse of what Israel has proposed, by using progress in the Israeli-Palestinian talks to curb Iranian influence, which is wielded in the region through anti-Israeli organizations such as Hezbollah and Hamas.
"We have to be pretty careful how you approach that kind of connection," said a senior U.S. official, speaking on the condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak publicly. "We are dealing with Iran because there are behaviors out there that are deeply troubling. We would be doing that regardless of other issues. By the same token, the Palestinian issue is an issue that obviously evokes a great deal in the region."…