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US Faces Pressure Amid Peace Efforts with Palestine

US Vice President Joe Biden’s arrival in Israel to hold peace talks with the Palestinians was caught off-guard by Israel’s sudden announcement of a plan to construct 1,600 new Jewish homes in East Jerusalem. The construction plan raised sharp discomfort from the international community as well as Biden himself. Biden helplessly accepted the Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu’s excuse that there has been a misunderstanding within the Israeli government, while putting efforts to ensure the Palestinians that the construction plan would likely take several years to actually begin.

Two reasons for the sudden announcement have been proffered: the ongoing political game within the Israeli bureaucracy and the ambiguous intent both the Israelis and the US have in the peace process.

Interior Minister Elie Yishai, whose office made the announcement, may have used this opportunity to boost his political popularity because the proposed plan generally benefit the ultra-orthodox Jews who are Yishai’s constituency. However, the Israeli leaders do not seem to be planning to reverse the decision, since various sectors of the government are taking steps to consolidate the plan. Palestinians claim the whole Israeli bureaucracy simply aims to disrail Obama’s peace effort in the region.

The US seem to be focusing more on potential Iranian attacks on the region than the impact on the peace process. The Jerusalem Post noted that US envoy George Mitchell’s absence from Biden’s visit belies the fact that Palestinians talks are not the priority. Biden himself, in his speech made at his arrival, emphasized America’s “absolute commitment to Israel’s security.” He also stressed that “the United States is determined to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons.” Israel is known to be loosing patience with American’s hesitation on Iran sanctions. There is also a possibility that the whole event is an effort to divert attention from an impending joint US-Israeli strike on Iran.

Overall, despite Obama’s insistence on a peaceful process of solving the tension in the region, number of analysts argues that he may not have much of a choice because of the pressure from neighboring countries, including Saudi Arabia. US Central Command chief General David Petraeus said that “there are countries [in the Gulf] that would like to see a strike [on Iran] or perhaps Israel.”

See the full article on Asian Times Online.


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