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Netanyahu Sets Limits for Obama

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Special Report: President Barack Obama got an Oval Office lecture from Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu about how far Obama may deviate from Israel's positions on Mideast peace. This public rebuke raises questions about whether Netanyahu will now try to sink Obama's reelection the way earlier Likud leaders undermined President Jimmy Carter.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's Oval Office rebuke of U.S. President Barack Obama -- and the Republicans' immediate attempt to exploit the dispute to peel away Jewish voters -- suggest that American politics may be in for a replay of Campaign 1980.

In that election, too, a Likud prime minister, Menachem Begin, set his sights on eliminating what Israeli hardliners regarded as a troublesome Democratic president, Jimmy Carter, and replacing him with a Republican more willing to let Israel expand its settlements on occupied Palestinian territory and launch what turned out to be a bloody invasion of Lebanon.

It was also in Campaign 1980 that the powerful coalition of neoconservatives, the Christian Right and the Republican establishment took shape. Over the ensuing three decades, that coalition has reshaped U.S. politics.

A key touchstone of that coalition has been granting Israel almost carte blanche to stall a comprehensive peace agreement with the Palestinians while expanding settlements on the West Bank to "change the facts on the ground."

Those settlements, which have been at the center of Likud policies since the 1970s, were the key factor in Netanyahu's public rejection of Obama's proposal to use Israel's 1967 borders as the starting point for peace talks.

Israel "cannot go back to the 1967 lines," Netanyahu lectured Obama on Friday, "because these lines are indefensible. They don't take into account certain changes that have taken place on the ground, demographic changes that have taken place over the last 44 years."

In other words, now that Likud has helped move hundreds of thousands of Israeli settlers onto what was Palestinian territory, the internationally recognized boundaries of Israel are no longer relevant.

Apartheid Proposal

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Leading Likud politicians have even suggested that if the Palestinians seek United Nations recognition for their own state in September, Israel might simply annex the West Bank and permanently exclude Palestinians from rights of citizenship.

That plan was laid out in a Thursday op-ed in the New York Times by Danny Danon, a Likud member and deputy speaker of the Israeli Knesset. Entitled "Making the Land of Israel Whole," it argued that:

"A United Nations vote on Palestinian statehood would give Israel an opportunity to rectify the mistake we made in 1967 by failing to annex all of the West Bank (as we did the eastern half of Jerusalem).

"We could then extend full Israeli jurisdiction to the Jewish communities and uninhabited lands of the West Bank. This would put an end to a legal limbo that has existed for 44 years. "

"Moreover, we would be well within our rights to assert, as we did in Gaza after our disengagement in 2005, that we are no longer responsible for the Palestinian residents of the West Bank, who would continue to live in their own -- unannexed -- towns.

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"These Palestinians would not have the option to become Israeli citizens, therefore averting the threat to the Jewish and democratic status of Israel by a growing Palestinian population."

Danon made clear that Israel was ready to defy the international community, adding:

"While naysayers will no doubt warn us of the dire consequences and international condemnation that are sure to follow such a move by Israel, this would not be the first time that Israel has made such controversial decisions."

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Robert Parry broke many of the Iran-Contra stories in the 1980s for the Associated Press and Newsweek. His latest book, Secrecy & Privilege: Rise of the Bush Dynasty from Watergate to Iraq, can be ordered at secrecyandprivilege.com. It's also available at
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