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Tuesday, May 19, 2009

A Mexican standoff in Washington

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and President Barack Hussein Obama met at the White House. Let's start with a videotape of part of the press conference.

Am I the only one who felt like puking when Netanyahu called Obama a 'friend of Israel'?

I suppose that the video makes it pretty clear that neither Netanyahu nor Obama succeeded in changing the other's position, although they apparently managed to avoid a blowup. As I noted earlier, Netanyahu was careful not to use the words 'two-state solution.'

I want to point out a couple of other things. This is from Obama's discussion of Iran.
"I believe that it is not only in interest of the international community [that Iran cease its nuclear activities,]" Obama told reporters following the meeting. "I firmly believe it is not in Iran's interest to develop nuclear weapons. It would trigger a nuclear arms race in the Middle East, and it would destabilize the region."

"Iran can achieve security, international respect, and prosperity for its people through other means," the president promised. "I'm prepared to make what I think to be a persuasive argument [regarding this matter]."

However, the United States would not continue talks with Iran forever, Obama said, and even as he suggested that America would assess its policy of engagement by the end of the year to see if progress has been made.
Note three things here. First, Obama says the US will 'assess' its policy of engagement at the end of the year. It won't necessarily stop it, even if it hasn't been successful. It will only 'assess' it.

Second, unlike the early October deadline we heard just a few days ago, it's now become the end of the year.

And third, note that unlike the creation of a 'Palestinian state,' Obama doesn't refer to stopping Iran as an 'American interest.' The creation of a 'Palestinian state' is an 'American interest.' Stopping Iran is not. It is an Israeli interest and an interest of the amorphous 'international community,' which seems even less concerned than the US now is with stopping Iran.

And note this from al-Reuters (Hat Tip: NY Nana):
Obama also said he was not closing off a "range of steps" against Iran, including sanctions, if it continues its nuclear program, which Washington believes is aimed at producing an atomic weapon but Tehran says is for peaceful purposes.
Under Bush, America was executing sanctions and not closing off military action. Under Obama, America is not closing off sanctions. Enough said.

On the 'Palestinian' question, you will note that in the tape, Obama says that Israel has to 'stop settlements.' This is al-Reuters again:
"It is in the interests not only of the Palestinians but also the Israelis, the United States and the international community to achieve a two-state solution," Obama told reporters with Netanyahu sitting beside him in the Oval Office.

Netanyahu reiterated that he supported self-government for the Palestinians but made no mention of a state, a position underscoring a rare rift in U.S.-Israeli relations.

"We don't want to govern the Palestinians. We want them to govern themselves," Netanyahu said, echoing statements he has made in the past.

Obama sees engagement in Israeli-Palestinian peacemaking -- in contrast to the Bush administration's largely hands-off approach -- as crucial to repairing the U.S. image in the Muslim world and convincing moderate Arab states to join a united front against Iran.

There have been signs Obama hopes to sway Netanyahu with the prospect of normalized ties between Israel and all Muslim countries, but such a comprehensive deal would require extraordinary diplomatic work by the United States.
In other words, the 'rift' is still there. This is JPost again:
Obama stressed the need for a "two-state solution," a phrase that Netanyahu pointedly did not use in his own remarks. For his part, the prime minister said that "the terminology would take care of itself," and talked about two peoples living side-by-side in peace, never mentioning, however, a Palestinian state.

Netanyahu said that "compromise" would be necessary from both sides, and that Israel is willing to take those steps.
I don't believe Obama is expecting any compromises from the 'Palestinians.'

But the biggest problem, says National Union MK Aryeh Eldad, is that Obama is willing to accept a nuclear Iran.
“Defining a deadline-free negotiating process vis-à-vis Iran means, in practice, that the U.S. is willing to accept a nuclear Iran and that Israel remains alone facing Iran,” Eldad said.

“Israel will have no choice but to destroy the Iranian nuclear facilities with all the means at its disposal, be the price what it may be,” Eldad concluded.
I'd say that day got a little bit closer today.


At 12:53 AM, Blogger NormanF said...

Carl - and Netanyahu pointedly said afterwards Israel reserved the right of self defense against Iran. Meaning Israel does not expect much in the way of US "help" in stopping a nuclear Iran. Moreover, with regards to the Palestinians - Netanyahu conditioned negotiations on a number of steps the Palestinians have been unwilling to take. If it was a Mexican standoff, the clearest sign of it is Israel did not submit to US dictates. Obama can talk about US interest in a Palestinian state all he wants for the rest of his term - he cannot however, force Israel to go along with it when his country shows no signs of willingness to deal with Iran seriously.

At 2:01 AM, Blogger J. Lichty said...

Great analysis Carl:

The most troubling aspect of this whole two-state solution issue is that it has moved from being the path to peace in the view of its supporters, to, after Condi Rice, being an end in and of itself - in short, the goal of the US regardless of the consequnces.

Of course, it is no accident that a Palestinian state was termed an American interest while stopping Iran was not.

At 2:27 AM, Blogger biorabbi said...

How was Bush better? Talk or no talk: no action was done under W. In the end, it will be up to Israel... as it was with Iraq.

It is more than annoying to here how horrific Obama is compared to the wise and philo-semitic Bush. I watched the press conference in its whole: tone, body language, words. There is no rift. The rift is to refuse to ever give Obama the benefit of the doubt. Ever.

By the way, I love Israel deeply. Without condition. That I support and admire Obama... does this make me a self-hating Jew?

At 3:06 AM, Blogger Lois Koenig said...

'Am I the only one who felt like puking when Netanyahu called Obama a 'friend of Israel'?'No, you are not.

Obama is an unmitigated disaster for both the USA and Israel. He is, IMHO, an enemy of Israel and the Jews.

'Help' from Hussein re Iran? I agree that Israel will have to go it alone. I just hope that Bibi will not give in.

At 3:17 AM, Blogger Lois Koenig said...

BTW, thanks for the hat tip, Carl.

Al-Reuters is like a broken record.

The only laugh I got was this:

'NETANYAHU DISAPPOINTS 'PALESTINIANS''I fear that Bibi may very well do something re Israel that will be far worse than just disappointing Israel at some point in time.

I want so much to be wrong.

At 8:31 AM, Blogger NormanF said...

NY Nana, per the next thread - nothing is going to happen. Prime Minister Netanyahu observed the terminology of a Palestinian entity is less important than the actual substance. And if it is going to be one that can't threaten Israel, then the Palestinians don't want it. This is a political oxymoron, like single player health care that every one goes along with but nothing will come of it. It sounds good in theory but the obstacles to realizing it are so daunting its hard to imagine them ever being overcome.

At 9:42 AM, Blogger Ashan said...

However nauseating the effusive gush of "terms of endearment" may have been, Bibi showed great estimation playing to Hussein's narcissism, naivete and immaturity. Bibi stood his ground most graciously in the face of what was probably enormous pressure and a "broken record" of regurgitated, dangerous palaver about "2 states for 2 peoples", if only Israel would give up everything while the "Palestinians" give only terror and a threat of genocide against Jews, not to mention the interminable bla-bla about more bla-bla leading to (oh my!) tough "sanctions", which really means doing nothing about a very palpable Iranian nuke threat.

Bibi understands well enough that he has to make the right decisions to save the nation. We lost so many years and our very strong deterrent capability to years of capitulation, ideological weakness and miseducation. So far, he's proving to be the right man at the right time. So long as he sticks to his guns, more power to him.

At 2:40 PM, Blogger Unknown said...


Name one aspect of Obama's Mideast policy that should be applauded by a Jew.

At 1:51 AM, Blogger biorabbi said...

How about increasing our force on the Afghan-Pakistan border? How about bombing UBL inspired camps within the tribal areas of Pakistan? How about continuing the US support for Israel(as exemplified by his comments in his meeting with Bibi)? I might also add that changing the US energy policy is of greatest long term import to weaning ourselves off the Arab teat. I might quibble with staying in Iraq as long as he wants, but disengaging from Iraq as opposed to W's tired policies of making Iraq safe for democracy is also in this Jew's interest.

Ram, you might quibble with my list, but can you name a single Bush policy that should be applauded by Jews? I do think W got some bad press and he is not the anti-christ the left makes him out to be, but, but the same applied to Obama. Crap, at least he can speak in complete sentences. Same with Bibi.


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