During his visit to the region later this month, US President Barack Obama expects to see a timetable for a unilateral Israeli withdrawal from the West Bank, according to Israeli sources cited by World Tribune late Sunday.
The report indicated that the president had made clear to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that his upcoming visit to Israel, his first since becoming president, “is not about photo-ops, but the business of Iran and a Palestinian state.”
The Times of Israel could not independently confirm the report, which contradicts official American comments ahead of the trip, which has been described as a solidarity and consultative mission.
“The implication is that if Israel won’t give him something he can work with, then he’ll act on his own,” the website quoted one source as saying. According to the report, an Israeli pullout plan could form part of an imminent US push to form a Palestinian state in the West Bank in 2014.
The World Tribune is a conservative American news website that was founded in 1998 by Robert Morton, a former editor at the Washington Times. The New Yorker has called it ”something between a newspaper and a rumor-mongering blog.”
Last week, it was rumored that Obama may cancel his scheduled trip if Netanyahu is unable to form a governing coalition by March 16. So far, the prime minister has only been able to sign up Tzipi Livni’s Hatnua party, with its six Knesset seats, for the next government, but most political sources believe he will beat the March 16 deadline.
Outgoing Defense Minister Ehud Barak, speaking at the AIPAC conference in Washington on Sunday night, said that, in lieu of a final-status peace deal with the Palestinians, Israel “should consider unilateral steps” in order to prevent the “dangerous” eventuality of a bi-national state.
The World Tribune report contradicts statements made in late February by Secretary of State John Kerry, who said that Obama would not present a new peace initiative during his visit to Israel and the Palestinian territories, and instead was coming “to listen.”
“We’re not going to go and sort of plunk a plan down and tell everybody what they have to do,” Reuters quoted Kerry as saying. “I want to consult and the president wants to listen.”
The US is taking a talk-, listen- and think-before-acting approach to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Kerry said, noting that the president would decide how to move forward with the two sides only after returning from the region.
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