President Obama with Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel in the Oval Office (White House photo)
JERUSALEM – The Obama administration has pledged to the Palestinian Authority it will closely monitor Jewish construction in the West Bank and will protest any new housing developments in the biblical territory, a top PA negotiator told WND.
“They told us the White House will watch for any Jewish construction,” said the PA negotiator, speaking on condition of anonymity.
“Obama knows that if [Likud Chairman Benjamin] Netanyahu is the next prime minister, he will try to expand the settlements. They pledged to us this will be strongly protested,” the negotiator said.
Although Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni’s Kadima party captured one more seat than Likud in last week’s elections, Netanyahu is considered most likely to form the next government, since he is reportedly able to forge the most stable coalition with other parties in the 120-seat Knesset.
Earlier this month, WND quoted top PA officials stating they received a guarantee from Obama’s administration that understandings reached with Israel during U.S.-backed negotiations while President Bush was in office would be utilized as starting points for current and future talks with the Jewish state.
The PA officials said they were enthusiastic about the new tone of the White House and about recent meetings with Obama’s Mideast envoy, former Democratic Sen. George Mitchell. They said they believe that under Obama the Palestinians can extract from Israel concessions reaching “much further” than during talks held under the previous administration.
“Regarding all understandings achieved between the parties, the Obama administration told us they will give guarantees to carry them out,” said a top PA official.
“With Obama, the number of settlers to be removed from the West Bank will much be more important than 60,000,” said the PA official, referring to previous negotiations in which Israel expressed a willingness to withdraw from up to 94 percent of the West Bank and move about 60,000 settlers into central settlement blocks closer to Jerusalem.
WND reported exclusively in November that then-Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice collected notes and documents from Israeli and Palestinian negotiating teams to ensure the incoming U.S. administration would not need to start negotiations from scratch. PA sources said Rice’s notes are being used by Obama’s team as the starting points for new Israeli-Palestinian talks.
Documents noting agreements during previous Israeli-Palestinian negotiations have been used in subsequent talks, sometimes as starting points. According to both Israeli and PA sources, American officials took detailed notes of talks at U.S.-brokered negotiations at Camp David in 2000 and then used points of agreement on key issues, such as borders, during recent rounds of intense Israeli-Palestinian talks.
Israeli and PA sources said Rice’s notes document agreements that would seek an eventual major West Bank withdrawal and would grant the PA permission to open official institutions in Jerusalem.
A top source said the PA requested that the Obama administration threaten sanctions against Israel for any new Jewish construction in the West Bank.
The source told WND that Obama is said to favor Israel withdrawing from nearly the entire West Bank.
Israel recaptured the West Bank in the 1967 Six Day War. The territory, in which about 200,000 Jews live, is tied to Judaism throughout the Torah and is often referred to as the biblical heartland of Israel.
The book of Genesis says Abraham entered Israel at the West Bank city of Shechem (Nablus) and received God’s promise of land for his offspring.
He was later buried with the rest of the biblical patriarchs and matriarchs, except for Rachel, in Hebron’s Tomb of the Patriarchs. The West Bank’s Hebron was site of the first Jewish capital.
The nearby West Bank town of Beit El – anciently called Bethel, meaning “house of God” – is where Scripture says the patriarch Jacob slept on a stone pillow and dreamed of angels ascending and descending a stairway to heaven. In the dream, God spoke directly to Jacob and reaffirmed the promise of territory. Earlier, God had promised the land of Israel to Abraham at Beit El. In Exodus, the holy tabernacle rested just north of Beit El in Shiloh, believed to be the first area the ancient Israelites settled after fleeing Egypt.
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