Tuesday, July 06, 2010

The Netanyahu /Obama Meeting


Today's meeting between Israeli PM Bibi Netanyahu and President Barack Hussein Obama is scheduled for the White House today, and it will likely be very different from their previous meetings, when Netanyahu was shuttled in to the White House via the back entrance and treated like a particularly unsavory third world dictator.

No matter what goes on behind closed doors,both men have a vested interest in at least the appearance of a good and cordial meeting.

President Obama is looking to the coming midterm elections and wants to dial down the public perception of non-support and undue pressure on Israel. Although Jews as a group continue to identify with the Democratic Party,the rift created by the Obama Administration between the US and Israel has already resulted in a lessening of Jewish support for the administration and for Democratic congressional candidates. And items like 54 Democrats signing a letter to the White House in support of Hamas haven't helped.

Netanyahu likewise wants the appearance of an amiable meeting for domestic consumption in Israel, especially among the Israeli media. And a demonstration of US support could also be helpful in warding off some of the diplomatic assault on Israel.

Expect smiles, handshakes, lotsa photos and some cliched statements on the closeness of US-Israel ties...simply because it's to both parties advantage.

What will go on behind close doors is going to be very different.

Obama will continue to push Netanyahu to make further unilateral concessions to the Palestinians, and at the very least will try to get Netanyahu to extend the temporary building freeze indefinitely that Netanyahu unwisely agreed to past its end in September.

He may also press Netanyahu to put a division of Jerusalem on the table.

Netanyahu will have to figure out some way to play for time on this issue. After his assurances to the other members of his coalition, caving in on this could very well cause his government to fall.

Obama's priority is to get concrete concessions out of Israel in order to bribe Mahmoud Abbas and the Palestinians to enter direct talks. Netanyahu has repeatedly said that he wants direct talks without preconditions, while Abbas has insisted on getting an Israeli commitment to certain concessions before he negotiates.

Given his limited public support among Palestinians, what Abbas can actually deliver even if he does come to the table is an open question the Obama administration would rather not address.But the process is considered all important.

The rift between Turkey and Israel may also be on the table. The Turks have stated that they plan to sever all ties with Israel unless they get a formal apology and compensation out of Israel for the May 31st attempt by a Turkish flotilla to run the Israeli naval blockade of Gaza in which nine Turkish citizens were killed when they attacked IDF soldiers attempting to board the ship.

While the Israelis have refused to apologize for defending themselves and ruled out the Obama Administration would very much like to see the rift between Turkey and Israel healed and may very well try to pressure Netanyahu on this issue.

The President and PM Netanyahu will also likely discuss Iran. With even Administration analysts like Leon Panetta admitting that Iran will likely have a nuclear bomb in less than two years, it's an issue on which the US and Israel should be in lockstep.

However, Obama is unlikely to give much to Israel here. He will probably bluntly tell Netanyahu that even if the belated sanctions fail to have an effect, the US will not support Israel if it acts alone.

Netanyahu is in the unenviable position of having to play for time against what is essentially a hostile American administration. If he allows himself to be intimidated into making concession after concession without any realistic return, it will only be the beginning of a whole series of additional demands.

Fortunately, Congress and the American people still largely support Israel, and Netanyahu is in a strong position to avoid giving away the store,provided he does it gracefully and explains his positions.

The planned photo-op happy talk nature of this particular meeting will likely help as well, since Obama is unlikely to press too hard on this particular occasion.

-Selah -

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louielouie said...

.....lemme see here......
did i just read ff essay regarding the bibi/hussein meetfest.......or.......did i watch the ping/pong sequence from forest gump?

B.Poster said...

"Play for time." With all due respect that's silly. Instead of playing for time simply tell the Americans "NO!!", if they want any more concessions. Out of this "alliance" America gets the following, 1.)valuable intel on its enemies, 2.)valuable input on the development and testing of important weapons systems, and 3.)a buffer between it and its enemies. I have a feeling I'm barely scratching the surface ont he benefits America receives from the relationship with Israel.

What precisely does Israel get from this relationship? One sided relationships, as this one is, either need to change or they need to end. For Israel's interest, its time to tell the Americans either make a meaningful contribtuion here or TAKE A HIKE!! As an American, I certainly don't want it to come to that.

Unfortunately America's situation is dire. With a deeply struggling economy, a worn down military, intellegence services that are in disarray, and a massive national debt frankly I'm not sure how America can help Israel even if it wanted to. As such, Israel might be better off to jettison the dead weight of the United States.

Why should Israel agree to a "settlement freeze?" Mexico claims as theirs Texas and all lands lost in the Mexican American war but I don't see the American freezing settlements in any of these disputed territories. It seems rather hypocritical for America to expect Israel to agree to a settlement freeze when it does freeze settlements on its disputed territories.

Israel should politely but firmly point out this bit of hypocrissy on the part of its "ally." I think the term that comes to mind is "call a spade a spade" or something to this effect.