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Israel Concerned about Ties with New US Administration
    2008-11-06 19:53:05     Xinhua
by Ma Xiaoyan

While top Israeli officials loudly applauded Barack Obama's "historic" triumph in U.S. presidential elections, their minds in some sort were overspread with worries about the relations with the big Uncle Sam.

For Israel, it is an absolute must to bond its interests to the White House's foreign policy for the security sake.

There is no doubt that Obama will take Israel into account in sketching any strategy. However, Israeli diplomats supposed he would not act in the style which outgoing President George W. Bush favored.

DIFFERENT TUNE

Outgoing Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said on Wednesday that "Israel and the United States have a common desire to advance peace and stability in the Middle East." Israel eyes Iran's nuclear issue as one of the top issues for regional stability.

Though Obama claimed that "a nuclear Iran would pose a grave threat and the world must prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon," Israel believes that he will dance to a different tune in dealing with Iran's controversial nuclear ambition.

A senior Israeli official, who attended a series of meetings to discuss the upcoming changes in Washington, said that Obama is expected to change the U.S. approach to the Middle East, including the launching of more extensive dialogues with Iran in an effort to curb its nuclear enrichment program.

"Israel can view this as an opportunity to stop Tehran's nuclear enrichment process; but in any case Obama will not accept an Iran with military nuclear capabilities," he added.

However, Iran's nuclear issue is likely to cast shadows on Israel-U.S. relations if Israel feels Obama is flabby to Iran while Iran continues to develop nuclear weapons, Aluf Benn, the analyst of local daily Ha'aretz said.

As for Syria-Israel peace talks, Obama said he would give his full support to the track as well as Israel's efforts to advance peace with all its neighbors.

The Bush administration, though, has suggested that Syria is not serious about taking steps necessary for peace - citing its ongoing support for terrorism and growing ties with Iran - and that high-profile talks only boost a rogue regime.

NUANCE REGARDING HAMAS

Regarding Hamas, local diplomatic officials estimated that the Obama administration may not dramatically change the stance, meaning it will support isolation of Hamas until it accepts the Mideast Quartet's conditions to lay down arms and recognize the Jewish state.

During a visit to southern Israeli town of Sderot in July, Obama said he, as president, would not force Israel into making concessions that would put the country in danger for the sake of the peace process.

But some analysts voiced concerns that the Obama-led White House could become more rigorous to Israeli military actions and settlement movements on the Palestinian territories.

As for the status of Jerusalem, Obama once stated that "it will remain the capital of Israel and it must remain undivided," which gained strong sympathies in Israel but angered the Palestinians.

Later he changed his attitude, saying the status of the holy city must be agreed in negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians.

Another topic that bothers Israeli top brass is U.S. military aid to Israel.

Obama promised in April that aid to Israel will go on, and his senior foreign policy adviser, Susan Rice, repeated this promise recently.

But the worsening of the economic crisis and talk of a reexamination of U.S. foreign aid have shaken Israel's confidence to acquire the underpinning pillars.

CROSSINGS AHEAD

No matter how much uncertainty looms ahead, Israel still has time to prepare for the change in Washington's policies, an Israeli senior official told Yedioth Ahronoth daily.

"Obama has bigger problems to tackle at this point - such as the economy. In any case we believe he will wait to see the results of the general elections in Israel," he suggested.

Olmert, who will remain in power as caretaker premier before the scheduled general elections in February 10, is planning a farewell visit to Washington later this month, in an attempt to reach last minute agreements with Bush administration as his political assets before both leaders step down.

U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice is expected to arrive in the Middle East Thursday afternoon in a new bid to advance the staggering Israeli-Palestinian negotiations.

She will also attend a meeting of International Quartet leaders, grouping the United Nations, the United States, Russia and the European Union, in Egypt's Red Sea resort of Sharm el-Sheikh to mark the first anniversary of the Annapolis Summit.

It is unlikely to reach Annapolis' target to hammer out a comprehensive Israel-Palestinian peace treaty before Bush leaves office in January.

Nevertheless, Rice intends to press the two sides to come up with an outline of the peace process in the next stage, which could serve as a "parameter" for Obama administration.
 
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