Israeli leaks suggested that at his first meeting with President Obama in Washington DC today, Netanyahu hoped, and maybe even expected, that if he just kept talking about Iran he could ignore recent Obama administration strictures. No one can say that he was not warned. Incremental signals from Washington have been building the case for the fly-whisk to come into operation.
Instead he was told firmly that there would be talks with Iran, rather than bombs, with “no artificial deadline,” and that the Palestine issue is crucial, with a two state solution, and: “That means that all the parties involved have to take seriously obligations that they have previously agreed to,” which is diplomatic-speak for Washington’s expectation that Netanyahu will abide by the agreements that Israel has undertaken – for example on settlements, opening the Gaza crossings, and so on.
Netanyahu’s studied refusal to mention a Palestinian state, and his anodyne prescription of two peoples living side by side, was an overtly meaningless evasion.
But how far will Obama go in pursuit of his objectives? His foreign policy long-games, long since put together by the Phoenix Initiative, involve taking short term losses in favour of long-term gains, as well as tying resolving intractable conflicts to other regional issues and geopolitical problems – see how he’s tied Russia, Iran and Israel together so far? Every time his predecessors have been pushed regarding or by Israel they’ve jumped; will he? Or if he jumps in the short term, will it mean something different? georgeindia, a Guardian commentator points out:
US and Israel will get along just fine. With or Without Obama. With or without Livni. Get back to the real world. Obama, the savior of the world, morally perfect and infinitely-intelligent-than-Bush while having the advantage of a multiracial heritage is with Israel like any other US president (let’s forget that he is bombing Pakistan at the moment).
A point well worth remembering. It’s time to look past the whole Obama-is-not-Bush schtick and look at what he’s doing rather than his rhetoric. He’s restoring military tribunals, persecuting a war in Afghanistan with spurious goals, threatening not quite to pull out of Iraq and has changed his entire position on disclosing the Bush administration’s use of torture in the ‘war’ on terror. He is indeed regularly causing the deaths of dozens of people in Pakistan with unmanned bombing drones, and barely anyone bats an eyelid. Why should he be concerned with actually solving the Israel/Palestine conflict?