Daily Israel Report

Obama Turns to Pope to Back Mideast Plan

U.S. President Barack Obama is turning to the Pope to back his vision of a new Arab state on all of Judea and Samaria and eastern Jerusalem.
By Tzvi Ben Gedalyahu
First Publish: 7/5/2009, 12:23 AM

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U.S. President Barack Obama is turning to the Pope to back his vision of a new Arab state on all of Judea and Samaria and eastern Jerusalem. The president told the Catholic Italian newspaper Avvenire, one week before a scheduled meeting with the Pope in Italy, “It [the Middle East] is a subject I am keen to discuss with the pope. I think he will share my approach."

President Obama has dug in his heels in insisting that Israel stop all building for Jews in Judea and Samaria, and the State Department has indicated that the ban should include all of Jerusalem that was restored to Israel in the Six-Day War in 1967.

However, the president maintained that the United States should not impose on Israel and the Palestinian Authority a solution to the differences between them. "What the United States can do, without imposing a solution, is to hold a mirror up to both of the parties to show them the consequences of their actions," he told the newspaper.

"On one hand, it is not just Israel's fault," President Obama added, pointing out that the Arab world needs to understand that “the Jewish state has security needs like any country.” His use of the term “Jewish state” and not “Israel" may have been a hint that the PA must accept Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s demand for the same recognition.

Meanwhile, leaders of the Council of Jewish Communities in Judea and Samaria have demanded that Prime Minister Netanyahu meet with them immediately over the issue of construction for Judea and Samaria, where they said “not even one construction plan has been approved in Judea and Samaria in several months.”

Council chairman Danny Dayan pointed out in a letter to the Prime Minister, “The government under your leadership embarked on its term in office with the declared intention of returning Jewish settlement to a path of development."

Dayan wants the meeting before Defense Minister Ehud Barak flies to London to talk with U.S. Middle East envoy George Mitchell on Monday for the second time in a week.

The Obama administration is asking Arab governments if they would agree to ease sanctions against Israel in return for a freeze on Jewish building in Judea and Samaria, according to Reuters. The Arab world so far has expressed no interest in taking up President Obama on his proposal in his speech in Cairo last June, when he urged Arab countries to allow Israel’s El Al Airlines to fly over their skies.

Another idea to tempt Israel into freezing all building is to convince Arab governments to abandon their policy of blocking Israeli-registered cellular phones on Arab networks.

However, President Obama faces stiff opposition from Arabs to make any concessions before Israel completely surrenders all of Judea and Samaria. "The Arabs ... are saying they don't want to pay for something twice," according to an unnamed diplomat quoted by Reuters. "It would be hard for them to give up something when building work was still continuing on existing settlement projects.”