Monday, November 09, 2009

Obama & Netanyahu Meet Tonight


Washington chill


Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu is scheduled to be the keynote speaker this morning at the UJC/Jewish Federations of North America 2009 General Assembly.

As Netanyahu made his way to Washington, there were those bent on exacerbating tensions between our premier and President Barack Obama. The Economist, for instance, taunted: "Is Israel too strong for Barack Obama?" illustrating its story with a cartoon depicting Netanyahu driving a bulldozer straight at the American leader.

Much was made of the fact that even as he embarked on his journey Netanyahu still did not have a firm appointment to see the president. One US Jewish leader described Obama as leaving Netanyahu to "twist in the wind."

We do not know if ineptitude in Netanyahu's bureau or political machinations in the White House precipitated this unnecessary storm.

The president's schedule was anyway torn asunder in the aftermath of the terror attack at Fort Hood, Texas. His appearance at the GA was canceled so that he could attend a memorial service in Texas tomorrow.

COMINGS and goings aside, the administration has been fundamentally misreading the situation here on the ground, allowing its own initial poor judgment to be reinforced by unrepresentative voices in Israel and on the margins of the American Jewish community.

Thus the White House insisted on an unconditional settlement freeze everywhere over the Green Line - a demand with which Israel could not possibly comply. This trapped Mahmoud Abbas in an untenable position: he could not resume talks with Israel without appearing "softer" than Obama. When Secretary of State Hillary Clinton tried to reverse out of this dead end, asserting the US remained opposed to all settlement activity, but that a freeze should not be a precondition for resumption of talks, Abbas was left aggrieved.

Now he's bogged down by his own bluster and Obama's miscalculations. The Palestinian leader has called for elections on January 24 though Hamas, which controls Gaza, adamantly refuses. When his empty threat to resign failed to get much of a rise out of anyone, his advisers began talking about dismantling the Palestinian Authority and declaring a virtual Palestinian state - a-la their November 15, 1988, declaration of independence made in Algiers; the one the UN General Assembly "acknowledged" decades ago.

Arab sources, with a little help in Europe, are now engaged in a disinformation campaign claiming Obama is party to a "secret deal" that would see the US recognize a new declaration of Palestinian independence and jettison Security Council Resolutions 242 and 338. In other words, rather than negotiate with Israel, the Palestinians are still fantasizing that Obama will impose a solution and deliver Israel on bended knee.

Another obstacle to peace is the mendacious Goldstone Report, which poisons the political environment. On Friday, only 17 out of 192 countries stood with the Jewish state in the UN General Assembly as it essentially codified robbing Israel of its practical right to self-defense. While the US did not abandon Israel, neither did it offer overwhelming moral support. US Ambassador to the UN Susan Rice did not even attend.

WHICH BRINGS us to the doors of the White House. From Eisenhower to Bush II, past administrations have intermittently cold-shouldered Israel or sought to drive a wedge between the Jewish state and its supporters in the United States. In this regard, the Obama administration is breaking no new ground.

Nevertheless, if Obama buys into the insidious canard, as Thomas Friedman promotes it, that the Palestinian leadership "wants a deal with Israel without any negotiations" while Israel's leadership "wants negotiations with the Palestinians without any deal," he will invariably spend the remainder of his term veering from one dead end to another.

Through a multitude of blunders - failure to dismantle illegal outposts among them - successive Israeli governments have empowered the West Bank Palestinian leadership to frame the current stalemate as resulting from Israel's preference for settlements over peace. In reality, it is persistent Palestinian intransigence combined with the fragmentation of their polity that has made progress impossible.

No one wants peace more than Israel. Most Israelis support a demilitarized Palestine living side-by-side with the Jewish state of Israel - the very vision articulated by Netanyahu in his seminal June 14 Bar-Ilan address.

Rather than giving Netanyahu a cold shoulder, Obama should warmly embrace this viable blueprint for peace.

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