Obama and Netanyahu Meet: What's Next?
by Daniel Pipes, Jerusalem
May 18, 2009
The meeting on May 18 of two newly elected leaders, Barack Obama and Binyamin Netanyahu, raises a basic question about U.S.-Israel relations: Will this long-standing alliance survive its 62nd year?
Mike's commentary follows the article;
Here are three reasons to expect a break from business-as-usual:
(1) Many areas of difference exist – the Iranian nuclear build-up, relations with Syria, Israeli adherence to the Non-Proliferation Treaty, and Jews living on the West Bank – but the "two-state solution" will likely set the meetings' tone, mood, and outcome. The two-state idea aims to end the Arab-Israeli conflict by establishing a Palestinian state alongside the Jewish state. The plan rests on two assumptions: (a) that the Palestinians can construct a centralized, viable state and (b) that attaining this state means the abandonment of their dreams to eliminate Israel.
The two-state model found acceptance among the Israeli public between the Oslo accords of 1993 and the new round of Palestinian violence in 2000. On the surface, to be sure, "two state" seems yet strong among Israelis: Ehud Olmert enthused over the Annapolis round, Avigdor Lieberman accepts the "Performance-Based Roadmap to a Permanent Two-State Solution," and a recent Tel Aviv University poll finds "two states" still remains popular.
But many Israelis, including Netanyahu, disbelieve that Palestinians will either construct a state or abandon irredentism. Netanyahu prefers to shelve "two states" and focus instead on institution-building, economic development, and quality-of-life improvements for Palestinians. To this, the Arab states, Palestinians, European governments, and the Obama administration near-unanimously respond with vociferous hostility.
Question: Will differences over the two-state solution prompt a crisis in U.S.-Israel relations?
(2) Larger strategic concerns consistently drive U.S. attitudes to Israel: Republicans kept their distance when they perceived Israel as a liability in confronting the Soviet Union (1948-70) and only warmed to it when Israel proved its strategic utility (after 1970); Democrats cooled in the post-Cold War period (after 1991), when many came to see it as an "apartheid" state that destabilizes the Middle East and impedes U.S. policies there.
By now, the political parties diverge greatly; polls find Republican support for Israel exceeds Democratic support by an average margin of 26 percentage points. Likewise, Republicans endorse the United States helping Israel attack Iran far more than Democrats. With Democrats now dominating Washington, this disparity implies a cooling from the George W. Bush years. Gary Ackerman (Democrat of New York), chair of the House Foreign Affairs Middle East subcommittee, exemplifies this change. Known in years past to stand up for Israel, he now accuses it of perpetuating "settler pogroms" and thus taking part in a "destructive dynamic."
Question: Will the Democrats' critical views translate into a policy shift at the forthcoming summit meeting?
(3) Obama himself comes out of the Democratic party's intensely anti-Zionist left wing. Just a few years back, he associated with voluble Israel-haters like Ali Abunimah, Rashid Khalidi, Edward Said, and Jeremiah Wright, not to speak of Saddam Hussein lackeys, the Council on American-Islamic Relations, and the Nation of Islam. As Obama rose in national politics, he distanced himself from this crew. On winning the presidency, he appointed mostly mainstream Democrats to deal with the Middle East. One can only speculate whether his change was tactical, designed to deny the Republicans a campaign issue, or strategic, representing a genuinely new approach.
Question: How deep runs Obama's antipathy toward the Jewish state?
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. http://www.meforum.org/pipes/6365/obama-netanyahu-meet
Commentary by Mike Ghouse:
Justice should be the foundation for building sustainable peace; Israel cannot have peace when it is denied to the Palestinians.
Mr. Pipes writes: “(b) that attaining this state means the abandonment of their dreams to eliminate Israel.” This rhetoric is as useless as the rhetoric of Dayan, Eban, Sharon and several other Israeli leaders who wanted to wipe out the Palestinians, drive them out of their homes and even calling them cockroaches. Both statements were made without really meaning in it. We need to get out of this rhetoric, it justifies the extremism espoused by the extremists on both sides, we need to look for peace.
The statement “that the Palestinians can construct a centralized, viable state and” is legitimate and we need to look at the evil things Mr. Bush has done and Israeli leadership co-oped.
By denying legally elected democratic Hamas, we have messed up the trust that we did not earn to begin with, and then blocking Gaza eventually led to the destruction of Gaza, a blot on the history of Israel, not for the hawks, but for the future generations.
By supplying arms to Abbas faction to fight against Hamas we divided them. It was the dumbest thing Bush has done; we have more fractions to deal on the surface, while the deeper problem remains unresolved. That is an old Machiavellian method that Bush and the Israeli government adopted, it did not succeed, as the intent was not good.
“Republicans endorse the United States helping Israel attack Iran far more than Democrats.” What credibility do the Republicans have? They are losing every day for the extremism they have adopted in their politics. They just messed it again in Arkansas Senate as one of the idiots called Chuck Schumer as “that Jew” and the Republican Party is doomed with Palin, McCain, Romney and the others who are trigger happy to destroy other nations endangering Americans for a long time to come. Who wants them?
“Ackerman now accuses it of perpetuating "settler pogroms" and thus taking part in a "destructive dynamic." Wake up Mr. Pipes, it is not him, it is entire bloody world and the Israelis saying that. Except the settlers, who mis-quote Torah like the extremists Palestinians who mis-quote Qur’aan, you and the Hawks in Israel are saying that. Ignoring what the majority of Israelis and Jews around the world want; Peace.