Netanyahu will face 'tough' US demands

By Anshel Pfeffer, March 5, 2009
Sealed with a kiss: Shimon Peres greeting Hillary Clinton in Jerusalem

Sealed with a kiss: Shimon Peres greeting Hillary Clinton in Jerusalem

Sources close to Prime Minister-elect Binyamin Netanyahu have warned that they anticipate "a tough time" from the Obama administration over the Middle East peace process.

Visiting Israel this week, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton gave a clear indication that she expected Israel to do more on both the Palestinian and Syrian fronts.

"Clinton left us with no illusions," said a senior adviser to Mr Netanyahu. "The message she gave in her meetings in Jerusalem was that they are not going to make things easy for us."

Mrs Clinton stressed that a two-state solution was both inevitable and in Israel's best interests, adding that Mr Netanyahu's plan for an economic peace with the Palestinians would not succeed unless coupled with a political process.

Announcing that the administration was to send two senior diplomats for talks in Damascus, she expressed hopes for a resumption of negotiations between Israel and Syria.

"She obviously came very well prepared," said Mr Netanyahu's adviser. "They are fully aware of the fact that Bibi refused to commit himself to a two-state solution and this meeting was about putting down markers. We are going to have a tough time with this White House."

The Foreign Ministry and Mr Netanyahu's diplomatic team have also been closely monitoring the statements of British officials who took part in this week's Sharm el-Sheikh conference on the rebuilding of Gaza. They deemed it significant that Quartet envoy Tony Blair made his first visit to Gaza this week since the 2006 Hamas takeover, and that International Development Secretary Douglas Alexander also visited the Strip, although neither met Hamas officials.

Mr Alexander told Haaretz that while accepting Israel's reasons for the attack on Gaza, allegations of IDF war crimes should be investigated.

Israeli officials said this indicated signs of a tougher stance towards Israel from both the US and the EU."It's clear that with this new US administration and its different attitude, European governments will fall into line," an Israeli diplomat said. "Netanyahu is going to have to come up with some answers to their demands."

Last updated: 12:31pm, March 5 2009