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Will Obama get tough with Israel?

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Robin Lustig | 17:56 UK time, Sunday, 7 December 2008

The Israeli political commentator and former government adviser Daniel Levy draws attention to a report from the Washington-based Council on Foreign Relations and the Brookings Institution that suggests the next US administration should "press Israel to freeze settlement construction" by threatening to withhold some of its aid if settlement-building continues.

His comments come after widespread condemnation in the Israeli press of attacks by settlers against Palestinians after the Israeli army moved to evict settlers from a house in the flashpoint West Bank town of Hebron. (There's video footage of some of that violence here.)

One report in Haaretz described the violence as "out and out pogroms". Haaretz also reports that the Israeli security forces are now preparing for a "wave of violence by extremist West Bank settlers".

But here's the thing: Israel goes to the polls in February and the opinion polls suggest the right-wing Likud leader Binyamin Netanyahu will win. He is unlikely to take kindly to any suggestion from Mr Obama that US aid could be tied to a settlement freeze.

So could this become one of the new US President's first big foreign policy challenges? I wonder if secretary of state-designate Hillary Clinton has already booked her ticket to Tel Aviv.


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