Wednesday, February 06, 2013

Arlene Kushner On What Obama and Netanyahu May Discuss When Obama Visits Israel

From Arlene Kushner:
February 6, 2013

Doing What We Can

Several times now I've run information on Zakkai, a two-year old boy in the States who had to undergo three surgeries for a fast-growing (albeit benign) tumor against his spine and lungs.  The hope and prayer after the last surgery was that this would be the end.
But it was not to be, as tiny nodules that remained on his spine began to grow dangerously again.  This coming week, on February 11, Zakkai will again go under the knife. This time the tumors will not just be removed, some tissue around them will be excised as well, right against his spine.  His parents, who have several other children, including a nursing baby, are drained and beside themselves.
Please, start praying for Zakkai now, and let's hope that there will be good news in the days after the surgery:
Rephael Zakkai Avraham ben Yakira Avigael
How lucky can we get?  First Kerry will be here, and then Obama.  The president is due, as I understand it, on March 21, although that still seems a bit uncertain.  In addition to visiting Jerusalem, he will be stopping in Jordan and Ramallah.
Picture of Netanyahu and Obama
Credit: csmonitor
According to US Ambassador to Israel Dan Shapiro, the visit will be sending a message about the "strong and deep connection between both countries."  That's just lovely.  But I want to understand Obama's motives and goals in visiting now.
There are those who suggest that the timing of the announcement -- made while the coalition is in process of being formed -- is meant to pressure Netanyahu to go for a more left wing coalition that would be amenable to what Obama is going to propose regarding negotiations.  Perish the thought that our prime minister should be that readily influenced by the mere prospect of Obama's visit.  This seems a bit blatant to be the reality.
And in any event, Netanyahu has already declared intention to form a broad based "unity" coalition in order to deal with what's coming for us with regard to Syria and Iran.  He has his own logic.
That Obama will want to discuss "the two state solution" and a return to the negotiating table is a near certainty.  Will he come, as some are saying, with a new "plan"?  Not sure.  There are denials that this will be so.  He would be very foolish to advance concrete suggestions at this time, when matters are so stagnated.  He may simply be intending to take the pulse of the situation, offer "encouragement," both here and with Abbas.
We have to hope, and send messages with regard to the expectation, that Netanyahu will not be unduly swayed by the president's "encouragement."  He has got to stand strong in enunciating our rights in Judea and Samaria and eastern Jerusalem, and be forthright with regard to the security risks we would incur were we to pull back.
That there will be "good will gestures" towards the Palestinian Arabs before Obama arrives is almost a given.  That seems to be the way the game is played, no matter how deplorable it is, that we should have to offer "gestures" to an entity that promotes terrorism against us. 
Already, the government has decided to release tax revenues collected for the PA that had been withheld because of its unilateral action in the UN, to be applied to a huge electric bill severely in arrears.  Whether or not it was yet understood here that Obama was coming, when this decision was made, it is likely that we already knew Kerry was, and that the US was going to start talking about the "peace process" again.
I will not speculate further here on what other "gestures" we might yet see.
Yet with all of this said and done, the fact is that there are other matters on the agenda besides "peace negotiations" between Israel and the PLO -- matters more urgent. 
Primary, is Iran, which is inching closer to nuclear capacity. 
I have observed several things of late:
In my last posting, I spoke about how Netanyahu told the Cabinet that Iran will be using more efficient centrifuges, which bring their ability to go nuclear closer, and "we cannot live with this."  Pretty definitive.
On the same day, and surely with the prime minister's sanction, Barak said that, "What happened in Syria several days ago [is] proof that when we [say] something we mean it."
And so, we are inching very close to action on Iran.  It seems implicit at this point.
At the same time, I have observed that we gave the US heads up on our intention to hit in Syria and took the action with American blessing -- even, news reports said, blessing for further attacks of a similar nature. After the attack, Clinton's words were supportive of our position -- there was no hint of criticism. 
What it seemed to me is that while Obama has not the courage to act in Syria, he was ultimately pleased that Israel is acting -- certainly with regard to chemical weapons and transfer of weapons to Hezbollah.
So there may be a good deal to talk about regarding Syria, as Assad comes closer to falling.
Even more so, talks between the Israeli and American heads of state may be of critical importance vis-a-vis Iran.  Here's where sending a message about the "strong and deep connection between both countries" becomes important.  And here is where the ikar -- the essence of the matter -- lies. 
My own take is that the pattern that has been established with our hits on Syria will continue here. 
I will make one purely tentative prediction here: We may see some movement on "peace negotiations" agreed to by Netanyahu as aquid pro quo for support from Obama on Iran.
In the end, I believe that if we do act on Iran, Obama will not criticize and may well lend some sort of logistical backup.  We will do the dirty work.  He'll be clean -- having even offered one-on-one discussions with Iran -- but will be glad that we did what he should have done but had not the will nor courage to do.
I would not find it terribly upsetting, should Netanyahu make some movement towards negotiations -- as long as nothing of significance were to be conceded up front.  This is, first, because taking out Iran is of the utmost importance, and two, because whatever we would do would be only a game:  Netanyahu knows full well that the Palestinian Arabs are never going to strike a deal with us.
What Netanyahu would be doing would not be cementing a deal with the PA, or even making significant headway in that direction.  He would be giving a gift to Obama -- lending the impression that the US president had the diplomatic skills, the clout, have it as you will, to influence Israel to be more forthcoming on negotiations. 
I could live with this, without finding that my stomach turned upside-down, if a larger and more important goal were served.  As, obviously, could our prime minister. In fact this is his MO.
Speculation...time will tell.

© Arlene Kushner. This material is produced by Arlene Kushner, functioning as an independent journalist. Permission is granted for it to be reproduced only with proper attribution. 
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