Will Netanyahu Fall Out with Obama?

Will Netanyahu Fall Out with Obama?

Before going into politics, Benjamin Netanyahu made his name as a skilled ambassador to the United Nations. But he will need every ounce of diplomatic finesse to deal with the conundrum he faces as Israel's new prime minister.

On Monday, Mr Netanyahu will have his first formal meeting with Barack Obama in the White House. All the signs are that relations between Israel and its superpower ally are not as harmonious as usual.

In the next few weeks, America is expected to publish the outlines of a new Middle East peace plan. The goal will be the creation of a Palestinian state based on the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.

Mr Netanyahu, however, has not accepted the principle of Palestinian statehood, and his coalition is filled with Right-wing politicians who are bitterly opposed to the idea. A public rift between Israel and America over the endgame of a Middle East settlement is a real possibility.

On its own, American support for a Palestinian state is nothing new. George W Bush was the first US president to make this pledge explicitly when he produced his "road map" to peace in 2003. But two factors make the present situation different and more dangerous for Israel's government.

Mr Bush waited until his third year in office before coming up with the map – and he only did so because he needed diplomatic cover after his invasion of Iraq. Mr Obama, in contrast, seems set to publish his vision for a settlement in the first six months of his presidency, at the apex of his prestige, and without any diplomatic distractions to compare with the Iraq invasion.

Moreover, Israel assumed during the Bush presidency that it could get away with ignoring the map without incurring any serious penalties. So it proved: the path that supposedly led to a Palestinian state turned out to lead nowhere.

Israel's first obligation was to dismantle the "illegal outposts" that particularly extreme settlers have built across the West Bank. These 100 or so mini-settlements breach Israeli law as much as any UN resolution. Israel ignored this requirement – and paid no price. An aide to Ariel Sharon, the then prime minister, publicly boasted that Israeli diplomacy had managed to "park" and "freeze" the peace process.

Mr Obama may prove similarly reluctant to exert direct pressure on Israel. Merely setting the goal of a Palestinian state is not enough; the world's foreign ministries are filled with dusty copies of Middle East peace plans which everyone ignored. The central question is whether Mr Obama has the resolve to do whatever is necessary for his plan to be implemented, and to force Mr Netanyahu to pay a real price for any obstruction.

If so, this would be a striking departure from his predecessor's approach. Only two US presidents have used direct leverage over Israel: Dwight Eisenhower squeezed the Israeli economy until its army followed British and French forces and withdrew from Egypt during the Suez war in 1956, and George Bush senior withheld billions of dollars of loan guarantees to force Israel's government to attend the Madrid peace conference in 1991.

Mr Netanyahu will do his utmost to ensure that Mr Obama never joins this select club. At home, the prime minister has a reputation as Israel's most Americanised politician. Avoiding an open breach with the superpower will be his central aim – and he will pursue it with the fervour of a man who knows that he has miscalculated in the past.

During his last premiership, between 1996 and 1999, Mr Netanyahu spectacularly fell out with the Clinton administration, so much so that the White House openly celebrated his election defeat by Ehud Barak. President Clinton declared that he was "as excited as a kid with a new toy".

Mr Netanyahu will have two counter-moves to America's diplomatic offensive. Most of all, he will talk about Iran. The threat posed by Tehran's nuclear programme and the Islamic Republic's sponsorship of Hamas and Hizbollah will be Mr Netanyahu's trump cards.

He will argue that Israel cannot make concessions to the Palestinians until Iran has been defanged. In private, Mr Netanyahu says that, under present circumstances, any Palestinian state would be taken over by Hamas and become a satellite of Iran. He sums up this danger in one phrase: "If we pull out, Hamas moves in."

He will also argue that reaching agreement with the Palestinian leadership, divided between Hamas and Fatah, is impossible. Mr Obama may counter by saying that movement on the Palestinian track will help maximise pressure on Iran – and that building an Arab coalition against Tehran requires Israeli concessions to the Palestinians.

In short, behind their public displays of mutual regard, the American and Israeli leaders are about to begin a diplomatic fencing match – and the outcome of this polite, veiled confrontation could decide the future of the Middle East.

Comments: 24

We are at war with Islam. Unpopular to say it I know. But we are. Not with all Muslims however. Yes Palestinians are not all evil anti-semitic terrorists, however, how many celebrated at 9/11? Or chant for the destruction of Israel? The argument over the proposed 'State of Palestine' is one that is argued as the 'human right' of national self determination, however this argument is a poor and naieve one. The fact is a Palestinian State will be an extremist muslim state, and they will NOT accept Israel. If Palestine Is formed it will not stop war in the middle east, it will simply tip it in the favor of what will be the allied Muslim world against Israel. The palestinians are offering ceasefire, not peace. The fact is that they will turn on Israel and they will have support. In recognition of the threat of war, it is both ethical and moral to deny a nation the right of self determination. Look to Germany as an example. After the war we denied them full sovreignty, because they had still been a viable threat. Palestine is a viable threat. To push for a Palestinian Nation is irresponsible, it's naieve, and it is NOT THE ANSWER. Israel is; to my knowledge, the only middle eastern ally to Great Britain and the United States who is currently not linked, or suspected of having a link to any terrorist organisations involved in actions against the uk, the us or their interests and citizens abroad. This is why they have support from both nations, because they actually are an ally. Unfortunately I do not think there is a way to prevent what looks like another inevitable war in the middle east. But NOT allowing the formation of another extremist Muslim state is most likely a better way of preparing for it. We should seek out peace, we should seek harmony and friendship with other nations and beliefs. But we should not be naieve. Palestine is like a lit fuse, how we react now determines the outcome of the future not only for Israel but for the world. If after all the Muslim world is successful in destroying Israel, are we really so stupid to believe that things will end there?

This could be mildly amusing. The Teen Squeal from the White House is about to run into reality: he won't like it. For his information, the reality is this: all Middle East peace intiatives are doomed to fail and none of them will lead to anything except disappointment on the ground and expenses claims in the foreign offices and state departments. You can have the state of Israel and no peace. Or the destruction of Israel, and then peace, accompanied by handwringing after the event. Probably in the end - quite soon, I suspect - it will come to that, but there is no 'diplomatic solution.' This is because the price Israel would have to pay for peace is so high she cannot afford it and still live, she might as well live longer and die fighting. For instance: the other side still insist, do they not, on the right of Arab refugees to return to any part of Israel from which they fled any time since the 1940s? (Correct me if I am wrong, someone: the issue is hardly ever ventilated, but probably even the U.S. State Department has someone who could check it up.) Compare and contrast the expulsion of the German population from Silesia, Prussia and Pomerania in 1945. How would German / Polish relations be if the Germans insisted on a right to return to the those provinces? No, if that is the reality the Teen Squeal should not trouble himself about it: let him do his thing: make a speech, sing a song, and maybe appear to pray at some carefully and indiscriminately selected religious site. That will satisfy distant TV audiences, and that is what he is best at. He should take care, I think, not to betray Israel too publicly yet, but that may come with time.

Hamas' offer of a 10 year truce [hudna] sounds to naieve Leftist ears like an opportunity to build bridges, Israel to withdraw from the WB, build up the economy of Gaza, the WB, etc. But what if Hamas uses the Hudna to build up its arms and armed forces, infitrate the Israeli Arabs as well as add to them to create a terrorist infrastructure in Israel, brainwash the Palestinians a bit more, bring in more and sophisticated weapons from Iran, integrates its armed forces with Hezbollah when it takes over Lebanon, etc? This latter scenario is by far the most likely consequence of a hudna. Look at the 'truce' between the Pakistani government and the Taleban. The Taleban moved in, hid in houses and uses the locals as human shields forcing the Pakistani Army to shell and kill thousands of civilians, destroy their houses, alienate them, while the Taleban leaders scuttle off to Quetta to regroup and start again. Israel is not fool enough to accept a Hudna on Hamas' terms.

Israel is under attack. This is not an overstatement. With threats real and ideological around most of its borders, a defensive reaction is unsurprising. Hamas vows for the state's destruction, Hezbollah does what Iran tells it to do, and Mr Abbas continues to say he has no interest in a Jewish state. With partners for peace like that, who needs friends? Israel is afraid, and it is being pounded by the type of Islamic fundamentalism seen in many other parts of the world. Sadly, this is a failing strategy not just for the Israelis, but for Palestinians and the West as a whole. The more you give these fundamentalists the more they want. Mr Obama and his team seem to want to make friends with terrorists. Just watch them grow. Gaza is just one example where Israel left to give the land to the Palestinians, then the Palestinians elected an organisation that is not interested in peace. Also, it is arguable that Iran may well be using Israel as an excuse to play games with the West in it's wider strategy of stealing influence around the world - you only have to look at Iranian proxies in other parts of the world - Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and of course Lebanon. If Israel didnt exist, do you think Iran would not be building nuclear capability or flexing it's muscles in these jurisdictions? Who is kidding who here? FM Lieberman may be right. Perhaps now it is time to work not land for peace, but peace for peace.

It is a favourite mantra that if only the US government pressures Israel to withdraw from the WB peace will follow as night follows day. Since 1948 Israel has offered land for peace and until recently offered the WB and Gaza in return for peace. This offer stands but is rapidly becoming unrealistic. Reality will soon intrude, again. The first reality is that only Abbas is talking to Israel and he represents a small coterie in Ramallah. Those with most power, Hamas, Hezbollah, Syria and Iran all want Israel destroyed. without Israel's presence in the WB to protect Abass he would be dead in 48 hours and Hamas would take over. The second reality is that Israel will not leave the WB without a unified Palestinian government able and willing to make peace with at least the prospect of taking the Palestinian people with them. After Israel left the WB to Arafat in lieu of an agreement he freed terrorists to kill 1000 Israelis and main 5000 more. The relentless demonisation of Israel by Hamas, Fatah, etc. means that most Palestinians hate Israel and believe that war is the only way. Besides, there is no chance of Hamas and Fatah forming a single government. The third reality is that Israel now controls 40% of the WB with army bases, settlements, cities, Israeli only roads, etc. and the WB Jewish population is 350,000 strong and doubling every 5 years. The fourth reality is that Israel doesn't need peace. Jews are 67% of the population of the area West of the Jordan including Gaza and Gaza no longer counts. Also, Israeli immigration is growing and Palestinian emigration is becoming a flood, especially in the WB. In a few years, Iran will either be bankrupt or their Nuclear weapons destroyed, Hezbollah will control Lebanon, Hamas will still control Gaza, Jews will be the majority in the WB, Abbas will be gone and there is nothing anyone can do about it all.

We can no longer afford wars on demand at the request of Israel.....America has been severely discredited over Iraq. It now needs to bring its "ally" into line...the world has waited since 1948 for this matter to be fixed. Israel has run out of excuses....nobody buys "war on terror" anymore as a way to slaughter the Palestinians.

Most people forget about the two state solution when they leave sixth form, but not our Barry. If he really believes that an independant Palestine could peacefully live next door to the people who kicked and bribed them off their lands, well could he? or any American? I doubt it. Its either Israel OR Palestine.

Sensible jews in US see netanyahoo for what he is, a war monger. He nurtured the war monger neocons Wolfowitz to bring instabilty to the middle east via Iraq, with the help of the village idiot we elected for President, who didn't have half a brain to listen to his father. Netanyahoo is projecting when he repeats his tired mantra about Iran and Hitler. What this means to us, is Netanyahoo is going to be the new hitler. I've read that past Mossad directors don't like Bibi as he gets in the way of professionals and creates problems for all peace loving people. I hope he and Avigdor Lieberman are shown the door by his own people.

With all due respect, Israel would like peace to occur. It would settle *if* there was a reliable political entity among the Palestinians who would keep its word. Israel HAS tried. It moved out of Gaza, after all, and pulled back elsewhere. What did they get? More attacks. And they were assailed for putting up a protective barrier even though it has indeed reduced certain kinds of attacks made by the Palestinians. Besides, the best that Hams has offered is a 10-year 'truce', no recognition. During that 'truce' they want the right to return, etc. etc...all they want is enough time to regroup and prepare for a final assault. It is not peace they're offering but a lull. It is unending war against the Jews. The sooner the world understands it, the better. Then again, the world's been pretty adept at willful ignorance.

In my view one of these two parties need to be persuaded to take the moral high ground. In other words the excuse of 'he did it first, so I can do it back' is getting tiresome and while it lasts the status quo will remain. Most people don't get to see the actual on the ground map of Palestine area in how disjointed it is and how much has been usurped by it's neighbour since 1948. If the media were to publish it (it is freely available), people may be better informed as to why Palestinians become frustrated and breed terrorists. Arabs in Israel don't actually fair much better. Israel is (being a more powerful country and made up in many instances of refugees itself) in a position to facilitate a policy of 'you may try to hurt me, I'm still going to try and sort this out' attitude. If the Arab world then does not alter it's views, then Israel can then stand and say with conviction and no condemnation - we've attempted proper and verifiable means to address the issue, and it hasn't worked and the world will not be able to prevaricate. Unfortunately this is not the case at the moment. Israel albeit unconsciously does play on the atrocities of the second world war, and western nations still have a subconcious guilt over that period and dither. Israel unfortunately behaves like a child that hasn't been discaplined in any way, has reached its teenage years and now thinks it can get what it wants just by stamoing its feet and having a tantrum.

Truth be told, the prospects for a Middle East peace are not good. Other postings have pointed out, quite correctly, that Israel must dismantle its West Bank settlements and seek peace with its neighbors. But, for peace to be achieved, the Palestinians must be willing to make a real peace themselves. They must recognize Israel as a predominantly Jewish state, just as Palestine will be a predominantly Muslim state. That will mean accepting reasonable compensation instead of a right of return for Palestinians. The Islamic world cannot have it both ways, demanding that Israel abandon its de facto State religion while insisting that in all other countries in the region Islam must be the State religion. This also applies to relations with the Western world in general. If Islam is allowed to seek converts in the West, then the Islamic nations must allow other religions to freely seek converts within their borders. Anything else is rank hypocricy and a possible threat to our Western culture of liberal democracy.

Fact is that Israeli economy is heavily dependent on American taxpayers money being pumped into it to keep it afloat. Without which Israel would be in no position to maintain a huge military and its associated costs. Also, the talk about Israel being the only ally in the region is a ridiculous one. Since the demise of the Soviet Union, almost all states on Arabian Peninsula are American allies including Saudi Arabia, UAE, Qatar, Kuwait and Oman. These are much more strategically important to the US in terms of their oil wealth etc. By maintaining its own bases in Qatar, with bomber bases in Diego Garcia only a few hours away, Israel as an only ally in the region is pretty much redundant. This projection of Israel's alliance is done by powerful lobby groups such as AIPAC. For reasons they should themselves answer, most American politicians are beholden to AIPAC and other similar groups. This places American foreign policy in conflict time and again and harms the US's interests in the region. Its time for the US to take a lead, break from the past and forge a new direction in terms of showing leadership in the world. It should force Israel to follow its lead and not allow Israel to lead it, as has been the case in past. Ariel Sharon's comment about US government comes to mind when he said he couldn't care less about what the US government thought as he controlled the US Congress. And during the recent Gaza conflict, Bush was pulled out of a speech by Olmert so he could be instructed on course of action for a vital UN vote. The result : continued conflict and hundreds more dead. Its time for Israel & the Palestinians to come to a permanent peace agreement. Its time for the United States to stamp its authority on a conflict that has lingered on for more than century and shows no sign of abatement. Only the United States can do this. No other country or group of countries has the clout to make this happen. And someone call Tony Blair back from the region. He's the biggest waste of time in this peace process there ever was. In any case, his sugar daddy is no longer president of the United States.

This is one of a long series of top level meetings that have already occurred and plans that have already been "discussed and disagreed to". The outcome will be another "path to" document that goes nowhere, costs huge money and lives and ends in the same old "commitments" but ultimately massive financial costs to the US including further bribery/blackmail and courtesan payments to Israel, more acrimony and massive bloodshed. It's the repeated cycle and one of the most corrupt, vile hoaxes in the history of humankind... and Americans are generally fed up with the whole mess, fraud and the resultant mass-murder and genocide as occurred in Gaza.

I'd love to be a fly on that wall when them two characters meet. As for a chilling of the relationship between Bully 1 and Bully 2 - I ain't holding my breath.

If President Obama cannot move Israel to significant movement towards a two-state solution, then his desired rapprochement with the Arab world is doomed. That requires U.S.pressure, economic and otherwise, on the Palestinians to unite and on Israel to begin dismantling West Bank settlements and e2xtracting the Israeli religious extremists in Hebron.If the president is going to get tough he must do it as early in his 4-year tenure as possible. Every indication is that he understand this.

Correction on aid package to Israel.. $140B is total from 1973 October war (in 2003 US$). The average yearly aid is $3B-$4B per year, roughly 20% of our total foregin aid funds. Having said that, I do agree with your statement that stopping this yearly aid will be economically devastating to Israel, and that in a way is my point as well. If we want Israel to become a viable nation that lives in peace with its neighbours we have to start encouraging them to make friends with the neighbours, to start tapping into the huge economic middle east market and stop relying on us to keep them afloat. It is not good for their future and we certainly can not afford to keep doing this forever.

Until such time as Israel destroys its illegal settlements (all of them) and starts respecting the human rights of the Arabs in Israel and occupied Palestine, the USA should not spend one dime in Israel's defense.

Khalid - you state that "US assistance to Israel amounted to roughly $140bn in 2008". The correct number is $2.5bn. Most of this money will go to support Israeli defence, not economic aid. As an American citizen, I am very pleased that the US is supporting Israel to this extent. It is in the interest of our country and others in the region to ensure that Israel's defence remains strongly superior to neighbouring hostile nations. Withdrawing this aid would bring disaster to the region. Netanyahu has been elected by Israelis to lead his country and the US President should use his power to effect peace, not to weaken Israel. Peace will come when all Arab states recognise the legitimacy of Israel as a Sovreign nation, not before.

Obama promised the American Jewish community that "I will do anything in my power to prevent Iran getting a nuclear weapon. Anything". Will he break that promise? Obama promised American Jews his total support for Israel. Will he break that promise? American Jews may soon end up regretting that they supported Obama if he reneges on these pledges. But Obama may also soon end up regretting it if he breaks his promises. His promise to the World was to broker a ME peace. His promise to his constituents was support for Israel. Which will have priority?

When Naziyahu shows up, Obama should greet him with members of J Street and JATO. It is time for AIPAC to be shown the door.

Every day I hear someone - the bishop of Rome, the President of America, Gerry Adams - talk about their deep desire for a Palestinian state, but I've never heard a halfway adequate explanation of why we should want any such thing. It can't be a purely humanitarian thing, after all Palestinians come roughly middle globally in terms of child mortality and life expectancy. In any case it's far from clear they'll be better off under their own auspices, in fact the best period for the West Bank economy was the seventies and eighties, before partial sovereignty was transferred to the PA. One might think it's a self-interest thing, but what's in it for me? What's in it for Britain? What's in it for America? What's in it for anyone, except the Palestinians, assuming they desire to be ruled by fanatics and gangsters? How many more Zimbabwes do we have to see before someone starts questioning the demented Wilsonian concept of national self-determinatio? Israel should tell Obama to focus on his defecit then dare him to use the military to block an Israeli strike on Iran. P.S. U.S. "aid" to Israel is really just a big subsidy for U.S. arms companies, arguably immoral, but not altruistic either. In contrast aid to the Palestinians (who receive more per head than anyone in the world by a factor of 2) is just throwing good money after bad. If Obama's looking for savings he should look there; for that matter sho should the HMG. I'm sick and tired of funding people who celebrated 9/11.

Mr. Natanyaho's visit will be a litmus test to see how consistent President Obama's policies are. Leaving out the politics and just focussing on the economic assitance provided by US to Israel amounted to roughly $140B in 2008 of which $3B was in direct foreign assistance (about $500 for each Israeli citizen). Now Israel is currently not suffering from any natural disaster or any other emergency, so this money is a really just a gift for being our friend. As US works through the worst economic downturn in the last fifty years, and as we see record unemployment rates etc. how is President Obama going to justify this aid package to Israel. If President Obama is to maintain his current path of restoring America's honor in the world, he must show his fairness by eliminating such wasteful expenditures of our meager foreign aid funds. This type of action by President Obama will also be consistent with other actions he has taken with other countries as well as at home. As a corolary of cutting off these funds, it will force Israel to think about alternative resources, such as working with their neighbors like the rest of the world, at least one can hope...

There is a hope for peace if President Obama has the courage, audacity and honesty to tell Bibi Netanyahu that enough is enough of Israel's warmongering, blood-shedding, blood-letting and causing horrendous death and destruction on the innocent Palestinian at the cost of American tax-payers expense; and it is now time for listening and hearing to the world opinion and f making a lasting peace with them. He should have the courage to look into Bibi' eyes and tell him that the whole world including 90% of the Americans are sick and tired to death of the Zionist's state blatant disregard for the world opinion, UN authority and Security Council resolutions which it has always defied, and about time learning to live in peace with its neighbours instead of being a nuclear monster, bully and a rogue state. US economy is in ruin and its coffers are empty subsidizing every Israeli 500 hundred dollars per annum and supplying it free arms, weapons and lethal ammunition worth 1.5 billion dollars in military aid, which it then uses to kill innocent Palestinians little babies, young children men and women. President Obama should be bold enough, man enough and courageous enough to tell Bibi Netanyahu that Israel will never again get a free cheque worth billions of dollars every year and shown a green light to kill innocent Palestinians from the USA. He should also be brave enough, audacious enough, bold enough and wise enough to tell the American Jewish Lobby that their game is over and they will not in the future dictate American foreign policy made in Israel. He should tell Bibi, " Come to me as a peace maker and not as a warmonger or stay where you are." Time has run out for the Israelis to bomb and kill their way into dictating peace on their terms with the Palestinians, and it is right time that they take off their blinkers, take out their ear-plugs and start listening to the world opinion and behaving like a decent tribe. For the first time in their existence, Israelis must be told to, "shut up and listen." This is the only way to bring some sense to the arrogant hitherto Israelis.

Netanyahu is likely to fall out with Obama - however, Israel is unlikely to fall out with U.S. public opinion. Obama's foreign and economic policies continue to be out of step with the American public. For now, he has been able to masterfully use his charisma and sycophants in the US media to keep a high level of popularity. However, the American people are not likely to be continue to be fooled for too long. At some point, this will come crashing back to earth as the American public wakes up to Obama's radical policies. Perhaps this is precisely Obama's calculation -- and hence why he insists on pushing forward on such a dizzying array of proposals across the board. Thankfully, history shows that this too is unsustainable, as such agendas tend to collapse under their own weight.

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