Saturday, May 16, 2009

Netanyahu Visits The White House

By Bennis, Phyllis


Obama, who has strongly supported the idea of a two-state solution since his campaign, has yet to articulate whether or not he is actually prepared to spend some of his massive political capital to exert serious pressure on Israel towards that end - for example, by conditioning (even some) of the currently committed $30 billion in U.S. military aid to a complete Israeli settlement freeze in the West Bank. If he means it, this could be the moment. Netanyahu's campaign rejection of the two-state solution, his rejection of continuing the current Israeli-Palestinian diplomacy and instead limiting negotiations to economic issues, and his extreme racist Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman all serve to make a serious U.S. effort towards Israeli accountability not only timely, but less politically costly than ever.

But there are serious dangers ahead.

We still don't know for sure whether President Obama is indeed serious.

There are reports in the Israeli daily Ha'aretz that Obama sent an urgent message to Netanyahu just days before his visit, demanding that "Israel not surprise the U.S. with an Israeli military operation against Iran." If true, that would be a good sign. But it also gives credence to reports that Obama is considering creating a regional anti-Iran alliance - an extraordinarily dangerous proposal that will certainly escalate regional tensions - and wants to link that idea to an Israeli settlement freeze. That is, Obama may try to persuade Netanyahu to agree to a settlement freeze (implemented or not) as a necessary requirement to getting the Arab states on board a U.S.-Israeli anti-Iran alliance.

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