Sunday, May 17, 2009

Netanyahu Meets Obama: Be Careful What You Wish For (Updated)

“You may come away thinking, ‘Wow, he agrees with me.’ But later, when you get home and think about it, you are not sure.”
Rashid Khalidi on Barack Obama
Does the same apply to Netanyahu?

Originally, we were concerned about pressure be applied to Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu as the days grew nearer to his meeting with President Obama. Would Obama force Bibi to say the dreaded words "two state solution."

At Powerline, Dan Diker, foreign policy analyst at the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, offers some analysis on Monday's meeting between Netanyahu and Obama--and based on information he has received from inside sources, it may be that the message that Netanyahu is bringing to the US might not be that difficult for the Obama administration to hear.

Here is some of what Diker's analysis:
...The US perception of the Netanyahu government as right wing, hawkish, and "settler friendly" is one of the keys to understanding the administration's rejection of Netanyahu's argument that it is impossible to make any political progress with the Palestinian Authority while Iran controls Gaza and is working to destabilize Judea and Samaria, despite an IDF security presence, via Iranian-backed proxies.

Last week, a former senior White House official in the Bush administration told me that the administration's problem with the Israelis is the "messenger" more than the "message." That's why it's vitally important for Obama to hear Netanyahu's "Iran must be stopped first message" from Arab allies who are equally threatened by Iran and its terror proxies such as Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak who will meet twice with Obama in the coming weeks both in Washington and Cairo.

One of the difficult differences between Netanyahu and Obama concerns their fundamentally different views over the linkage of the Palestinian-Israeli peace process to the containment of Iran's nuclear charged race to destroy Israel and achieve regional dominance. Netanyahu rejects linking the Palestinian issue to Iran. His view is that Iran is a nuclear existential threat to Israel and Arab states via terror proxies and must be stopped now at all costs. Period. The Palestinian conflict predated Iran's ascension and has not been resolved over the past 61 years; it will likely continue to be a major problem even after the Iranian regime is contained or neutralized.

Obama and his advisors simply don't see it that way. They are convinced that making great strides towards establishing a Palestinian state will help coalesce the Arab world against Iran. Arab leaders have been whispering in Obama's ear since his first day in office that Iran is undermining Arab regimes by exploiting the Palestinian issue via Hezbollah and Hamas to inflame the Arab street. This is a silly argument. Iran, Hamas, Hezbollah and other Islamist servant groups are ideologically and religiously motivated, they are not driven by Palestinian or other grievances. Besides, Iranian-backed Hamas has been subverting the US and Israeli backed Palestinian Authority first in Gaza and now in the West Bank; it will never allow a US-backed Palestinian state to arise.

Netanyahu and Obama can find a way to square the circle on this issue. I understand from a trusted friend who attended a small closed door dinner with Rahm Emanuel at last Week's AIPAC conference that Obama's close confidant was misquoted on the Palestinian-Iran linkage issue. The source said Emanuel specifically did not make Israeli Palestinian peace progress a precondition of US-Israel cooperation on Iran but merely suggested that it would make coalition-building far easier.
Read the whole thing.

Netanyahu paid a visit to both Egypt and Jordan before coming out to visit Obama. That may have been part of getting backing for that "Iran must be stopped first message".

On his blog, Mitchell Bard--author of Myths and Facts--goes even further. He writes that there is actually every reason to be outright optimistic about Monday's meeting:
The villainous portrayal does not comport with the actual policies of the man who was the last Israeli prime minister to carry out a major withdrawal from the West Bank. Yes, it was Netanyahu who agreed to withdraw from Hebron, the most sensitive of all West Bank communities because of its historic and religious significance. He went even further, in fact, and accepted the Clinton administration’s proposal for a withdrawal from an additional 13 percent of the West Bank beyond what his predecessors has given up.

Prior to being elected the first time, as in the most recent election, Netanyahu ran a campaign that focused on security and came across to many as uncompromising. But, as in the United States, governing in Israel is very different from campaigning. Thus, while Netanyahu had said, for example, that he would never shake Yasser Arafat’s hand, he was photographed doing just that after agreeing to territorial concessions that were negotiated in the Wye River Memorandum in 1998.

...A greater chance for a breakthrough exists with Syria. Here again, Netanyahu has talked tough about holding onto the Golan Heights, but he is the one who engaged in secret talks with the Syrians based on the premise of full (or nearly full) withdrawal in exchange for the normalization of relations.

...Over the last 60 years, the U.S.-Israel relationship has only grown stronger, despite occasional tensions. Neither Prime Minister Netanyahu nor President Obama have said anything to suggest that they will be anything but close partners in the pursuit of peace and stability in the Middle East and they will undoubtedly work together to make the alliance even stronger.
I don't know.

Before, I was wary that Netanyahu and Obama would not see eye to eye.
Now...I'm afraid they will!

UPDATE: Daniel Pipes outlines 3 reasons to expect a break from business as usual when Netanyahu and Obama meet and concludes:
Some predictions: (1) Iran being Netanyahu's top priority, he will avoid a crisis by mouthing the words "two-state solution" and agreeing to diplomacy with the Palestinian Authority. (2) Democrats too will be on their best behavior, checking their alienation through Netanyahu's visit, momentarily averting a meltdown. (3) Obama, who has plenty of problems on his hands, does not need a fight with Israel and its supporters. His move to the center, however tactical, will last through the Netanyahu visit.

Short term prospects, then, hold out more continuity than change in U.S.-Israel relations. Those concerned with Israel's security will prematurely breathe a sigh of relief – premature because the status quo is fragile and U.S. relations with Israel could rapidly unravel.

Even a lack of progress toward a Palestinian state can prompt a crisis, while an Israeli strike against Iran's nuclear infrastructure contrary to Obama's wishes might cause him to terminate the bond begun by Harry Truman, enhanced by John Kennedy, and solidified by Bill Clinton.
So bottom on, everyone will behave themselves and do what is expected of them.
This time.

Crossposted on Soccer Dad

Technorati Tag: and .

No comments: