The international pressure may be mounting on Benjamin Netanyahu to freeze settlements but pressure from within Israel is the reason for his resistance.
Whether it is Barack Obama or his Middle East envoy George Mitchell, Angela Merkel or Gordon Brown who is pressing him, the Israeli prime minister continues to avoid a commitment on settlements. World leaders are queueing up to insist that the issue is one of the pillars of the peace talks. French President Nicolas Sarkozy is among them. He said yesterday: “I hope the meeting between the American president’s envoy and the Israeli prime minister will lead to- and everyone knows my friendship towards Israel but I’ll say what I think- will lead to the complete freeze of settlement expansion.” An international delegation including Nobel peace prize winners Jimmy Carter and Desmond Tutu arrived in Jerusalem yesterday to push the peace process. They were met by an Israeli president who was just as evasive on the matter of settlements as his prime minister. But the domestic pressure on Netanyahu is proving persuasive. The settlement issue could even threaten his broad government coalition, especially as the Foreign Ministry is held by far-right nationalists who are seemingly immune to international pressure. Netanyahu’s other coalition partners, the Labour party, have for years been demanding the eviction of Israeli residents in illegal settlements, or outposts. Labour could also bring down the coalition if these demands continue to be ignored. The pressure on Netanyahu is coming from many angles.