US officials assured Defense Minister Ehud Barak during the latter's visit to Washington that the Obama administration is not trying to topple Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's government.
Barak discussed this with Netanyahu in his meeting with the Prime Minister on Friday following the former's return from Washington. The defense minister met with a series of senior administration officials,
including US President Barack Obama, Vice President Joe Biden, National Security Advisor James Jones, Defense Secretary Robert Gates, and Senator George Mitchell – Obama's special envoy to the Middle East.
The string of meetings held at such a sensitive time in US-Israeli relations is testament to the Americans' desire to use the Labor chairman as their connection to the otherwise right-wing government. Barak was also told in his meetings that Washington does not expect peace to break out thanks to an Israeli declaration in favor of the two-state solution or Israel's willingness to freeze construction in the settlements and dismantle illegal outposts in the West Bank.
However, said senior Israeli sources who were briefed following Barak's return, the US officials also stressed that the aforementioned Israeli gestures are inevitable given the current reality. Doing so would aid in creating a moderate Arab alliance that would support efforts to tackle the Iranian nuclear threat, and that would allow the completion of US involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Washington fears that instability on the Israeli-Palestinian front may undermine the willingness of Arab nations to promote US interests in the region.
Meanwhile Israel is preparing for Senator Mitchell's visit on Tuesday. Mitchell, who landed in Israel on Monday evening, will hold a marathon series of meetings with government officials. He is scheduled to meet with Barak before 8:00 am, with President Shimon Peres at 11:15 am, Foreign Affairs Minister
Avigdor Lieberman at 2:00 pm and PM Netanyahu at 5:30 pm.
Meanwhile, the American Embassy in Tel Aviv said that Senator Mitchell denied ever having said that “Israel has been lying on the US for the past years,” and that “it’s time to stop this.”
According to media reports, Mitchell made the statement during a meeting with a prominent Jewish official in Washington.
Netanyahu, for his part, is continuing to prepare for his highly-anticipated policy speech, which he is scheduled to deliver next Monday at Bar-Ilan University.
The prime minister informed the US president of the upcoming speech during a telephone conversation the two held on Monday, which was characterized as 'positive.'