The United States is considering taking “harsher action” against Israeli construction efforts in Jerusalem and in Judea and Samaria, reports Thursday said.
According to the report in Ha'aretz, the White House has been discussing taking “active measures” to discourage Israeli construction, instead of just issuing condemnations, as it has done until now.
But commentators on Israel's right dismissed the story as “political scare tactics” in the wake of upcoming elections in Israel.
The report said that senior American officials asked about the report “did not deny this, but refused to disclose more details.” According to the report, “a discussion on such a sensitive and politically-loaded issue in the White House is extremely irregular and shows to what extent relations between the Obama administration and Netanyahu government have deteriorated.”
According to the report, the White House decided on this new policy after the recent meeting between US President Barack H. Obama and Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu. The meeting occurred as Peace Now announced that Israel had approved the construction of 1,600 homes in Jerusalem's Givat Hamatos neighborhood, and activists moved into homes in the City of David neighborhood.
The report said that American actions could include abstaining in votes condemning Israel at the UN Security Council, instead of vetoing them, or banning funding of projects in Judea and Samaria.
The report comes the same day that the US Congress reaffirmed Israel as a “strategic partner,” with the House of Representatives unanimously approving the United States-Israel Strategic Partnership Act of 2014, which expands cooperation in defense and security, energy, research and development, business, agriculture, water management and academics. The measure reflects "the sense of Congress that Israel is a major strategic partner of the United States," and declares Washington's "unwavering support" for Israel as a Jewish state.
The legislation would expand the U.S. weapons stockpile in Israel by some $200 million in value, to a total of $1.8 billion, so that the Pentagon can be better prepared to conduct military operations in the volatile Middle East. It also crucially allows Israel to use the weapons in the event of an emergency, as it did this summer during its operation Protective Edge in Gaza.
The bill, which passed the Senate unanimously in September, now goes to President Barack Obama for his signature. Ha'aretz did not say if the “actions” proposed by the White House would include vetoing this bill.
Political commentators on the right in Israel dismissed the Ha'aretz report as “election propaganda.”
The fact the report emerged a day after the Knesset decided on new elections “is more than just mere coincidence,” said one commentator.
“Whether it was the idea of Ha'aretz or a White House functionary, it's clear that the message here is that Israel will be better off with someone other than Netanyahu leading it. These kinds of stories always 'happen' to surface before elections, and nothing ever comes of them.”