Leftish Israeli journalist Ben Caspit thinks that he knows what is going on between Obama and Netanyahu, and he may very well be right:
So what is the grand plan? In broad strokes, its tenets are as follows. This is a plan hatched between the US administration and Netanyahu, with Palestinian knowledge as well as the tacit knowledge of other elements in the Middle East. Its general underlying principle is “Iran for Palestine.” US President Barack Obama pledges, by also giving his own personal guarantee, to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear capability. In return, Netanyahu will reciprocate by awarding him a diplomatic achievement vis-a-vis the Palestinians. We have seen the first step in this direction in recent weeks in the arrangement Obama has worked out to disarm Syria of its chemical weapons. Netanyahu did not speak against this arrangement, partly because he has received US assurances that this will not be a precedent, that the Iranian issue is entirely different from the Syrian one and that the “credible threat” of a military strike on Syria still remains on the table.
Netanyahu is unable to reach a permanent status agreement with the Palestinians. Everyone in Ramallah, Washington, Jerusalem and the settlements knows that. According to the plan, at some point in the negotiations all the parties will have reached this conclusion, and at that juncture the Americans will lay out their alternative proposal. It will consist of a permanent arrangement in phases, beginning with an interim arrangement between Israel and the Palestinians in the setting of which a Palestinian state will be established under temporary borders.
Netanyahu hopes that he will not have to evict any settlements in the framework of this arrangement and that the Palestinian state will be established in areas A and B, which are under Palestinian security or civilian control. The United States will give the Palestinian Authority (PA) guarantees that this is not the final arrangement but rather an interim stage that is limited in time. The issues of Jerusalem, the refugees and final borders will be postponed to later stages. The Palestinian state will be recognized by the United Nations, with the support of Israel, which will withdraw to the separation fence line.
If true, this explains a lot, including Netanyahu’s agreement to a shameful prisoner release last month. It also explains why Washington continues to push Israel to negotiate with the PLO, despite the ample evidence that a real final agreement is unreachable. This plan achieves the multi-decade high-priority US policy goal of getting Israel out of the territories, without a final agreement. And getting Israel out is what Obama and the State Department care about, more than almost anything.
A deal with the PLO as described above would be very bad for Israel’s security, since a sovereign Palestinian state in Judea/Samaria that the IDF can’t enter without violating the UN Charter will become a terrorist base far more dangerous than Gaza. And delaying the intractable issues of Jerusalem, refugees, etc. until after Israel withdraws from much of the territory means that Israel will lose its leverage on them when they are finally laid on the table.
I understand why Netanyahu thinks the problem of Iran is of overriding importance, because it is. But of course there is one literally fatal flaw in the logic that would trade submission to the PLO for US action on Iran.
Even given the best of intentions, today’s US cannot be trusted to keep its commitments. If there is one lesson from the shockingly incompetent fumble of the Syrian situation, it is that one cannot count on America. And we cannot assume the best intentions from Obama, whose anti-Israel bias has been evident from the very beginning of his presidency.
Recent overtures between Obama and Iranian President Rouhani indicate that Obama is prepared to accept some kind of diplomatic ‘solution’. But it is certain that Iran will not agree to anything that will deny it the weapons that it has been struggling to develop, despite international condemnation and economic sanctions, for more than a decade. As in the case of Syria, Obama wants an excuse to declare victory. But only a credible threat of military force will succeed in getting Iran to dismantle its weapons program.
A PLO terror state a few miles from its population center or an Iranian bomb are both unacceptable to Israel. There is no way it can trade one of these for the other — it is not in Obama’s power, nor does he desire, to keep such a bargain.
The proposed American deal, if it is as described, is a chimera. Israel needs to take the hard road, to destroy Iran’s nuclear program itself and to keep sovereignty over the territories, at least for the near future.