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February 10, 2013

“The Real Meaning of the Obama Visit to Israel and U.S.-Israel Relations in Obama’s Second Term.”

After going along with Obama, it is now said in the United States that Netanyahu tried to undermine Obama or didn’t cooperate.

By: Barry Rubin, Rubin Reports

The international media is speculating on Obama’s visit scheduled for late March. The argument is that he would not come unless he gets some breakthrough, that is, some Israeli concession, and he wouldn’t leave happy unless he received one.

So what would this concession be? The most likely candidate would be a freeze on constructing building within existing settlements, as Israel gave him three years ago. At that time, despite a ten-month freeze, the Palestinian Authority only came to talks at the last minute, offered nothing, and then quickly demanded another freeze. In other words, Israel did precisely what Obama asked and got nothing in return, either from his government or the Palestinians.


Actually, it is not technically true to say “nothing.” Secretly, the U.S. government promised to accept that Israel could annex “settlement blocs,” (a promise originally made by Obama’s predecessor, George W. Bush) that is keep the largest existing settlements near the border, in exchange for territorial swaps in a peace agreement, and to continue building in east Jerusalem.

What happened? A few months later, a visiting Vice President Joe Biden threw a tantrum about an announced zoning board decision that at some future point Israel might build in pre-1967 Jordanian-ruled territory. In effect, that was a violation of the agreement.

Then, while not explicitly going back on the settlement bloc agreement without notifying Israel, Obama made a major speech in which he put the emphasis on Israel’s return to the pre-1967 borders (that is, giving up the settlement blocs), though he did leave the door ajar for territorial swaps. That was not breaking the pledge but certainly undermined it.

After doing what Obama wanted and then getting little or nothing in exchange, Israel is now faced with claims that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu never made any concessions to get negotiations going. After going along with Obama, it is now said in the United States that he tried to undermine Obama or didn’t cooperate.

And after the Palestinian Authority repeatedly killed negotiations—even after Obama announced in 2010 that they would begin shortly at Camp David and Netanyahu agreed—it is a mainstay of mass media coverage that Netanyahu is responsible for the failure of negotiations to happen.

A friend joked that Netanyahu should change his first name from Benjamin to “Hard-line” since that’s the way he’s usually presented in the Western mass media.

Thus, Israeli cynicism should be—if people knew the factors behind it—understandable. After all, the sum total of international wisdom on the now-dead (but pretended to be alive) “peace process” is that this means Israel giving up things and getting nothing in return.

Yet Israel is prepared to go along with Obama again in some fashion. Why? Because it is necessary to preserve the strong relationship with the United States. Obama will be president for the next four years and some help from him is needed on the Iran nuclear issue, the likely growing threat from Egypt, military aid, and other issues.

That is political reality.

At the same time, though, the idea—again, prevalent in mass media coverage—that Netanyahu must “moderate” to form a government is not true. First, a very important lesson: Ignore everything said by Israeli politicians and media during the coalition-forming period because it is invariably misleading. This is what experience has shown virtually without exception.

Now, Netanyahu’s basic choice is to bring together at least two of the following three parties: The traditional liberal Yesh Atid led by Yair Lapid; the Sephardic religious Shas, and the right-wing Ha-Bayit Ha-Yehudi, led by Naftali Bennett. This is like the story of how you get the fox, the chicken, and the grain across a river without something getting eaten. It is very difficult.

Yesh Atid, led by Yair Lapid, has called for Netanyahu to work hard to get talks with the Palestinians going again. This has been treated as some major move of pressure. Of course not. That’s what Lapid is going to say and should say. And Netanyahu should also say—as he has done hundreds of times in the last four years—that he wants to get negotiations going.

That does not deal, however, with how many unilateral concessions Israel is willing to give to do so and whether the Palestinian Authority—now believing it is victorious from having the U.N. recognize it as a state—would go along. Everyone knows this. So to say that Israel should try to get negotiations going again is equivalent to someone in America saying that it is important to improve the economy.

Yet the reality of coalition negotiations is this: Lapid doesn’t like Bennett and vice-versa; Lapid and Bennett don’t like Shas; Netanyahu doesn’t like Bennett and knows that adding him would create international costs. And by the way, would Bennett enter a government that started out by announcing a long freeze in construction?

So it isn’t as easy as mainstream conventional wisdom makes it seem.

It is also suggested the P.A. leader Mahmoud Abbas might actually give up something to get negotiations going. Like what? Perhaps giving up law suits against Israel—which is now supposedly occupying the territory of an internationally recognized Palestinian state, allegedly achieved without any agreement with Israel—in the international court.

Well, maybe. But Abbas faces massive political pressure in his society that far exceeds anything Netanyahu faces. What will he get for giving up what he has claimed as a trump card, a great victory? He certainly doesn’t fear pressure from Obama. Unlike Israel, the Palestinians can do anything they want and not face costs or even public criticism from the American president.

In other words, the whole thing isn’t going to work. Obama might come away with just enough to claim some success, a claim that will be echoed in the mass media. But it would be meaningless.

From Israel’s standpoint, however, letting Obama take the bows as a great peacemaker is worthwhile as long as it doesn’t cost too much or involve too much risk. Ironically, because of Obama’s policies and the rising boldness of its enemies and a revolutionary Islamism that feels itself triumphant, Israel is going to need U.S. support a bit more in the coming four years.

Posted by Ted Belman @ 9:17 pm | 14 Comments »



14 Responses to “The Real Meaning of the Obama Visit to Israel and U.S.-Israel Relations in Obama’s Second Term.”

  1. Bernard Ross says:

    announcements made after the visit will signal the path. Certainly Syria and Iran must be on the agenda but also is that the current signal is the visit to Israel, PA and Jordan implying the involving of all 3. We shall see if a signal of moving closer to a pal/jordan confed will begin. Any potential recognition of the pal state and/or Jordanian involvement in negotiations will signal a confed. in the future. Any announcements would have been already agreed prior and timed for public consumption.

  2. Shmuel HaLevi says:

    I am very happy for the US. Apparently their government has no other immediate priority, right at its first days in renewed office, but to invest its dwindlng power to come on over and visit.
    Now to reality. Mr. Soetoro Obama is our enemy. His selection of support personnel and his personal training clearly define him as such.
    Consequently we must assure that while keeping appearances, his intents are twarted.
    Can that be done by the flimsy leadership of ours? No way! Whose fault it is that lower than mediocre people are elected? Our fault, the people’s fault.
    Is there a possible corrective action? Yes! There is.
    But it will require grit, focus and top level identification with our JEWISH NATIONAL interests.
    Elections outside the corrupt system must be effected to elect altenative government structures, judges, representatives and leaders.
    A NEW JEWISH NATIONAL ASSEMBLY must be set in place to replace the so called Knesset.
    From Mr. Netanyahu we can only expect falsehoods, betrayals, defeat.

  3. Reg Vernon says:

    These are difficult times and a careful hand is needed to guide Israel through the coming ME turmoil. I think that annexation of the West Bank and complete integration of its inhabitants into Israel is the logical, if fraught, direction to go. Handled sensitively, but with firmness, I think that the peace dividend will bring such wealth and opportunity to Palestinians that there will be no stomach for futile jihadist adventures. Which is not to say that the journey together will be smooth. It can be done.

  4. Jeffrey Cohen says:

    @ Shmuel HaLevi:
    Shmuel HaLevi Said:

    Elections outside the corrupt system must be effected to elect alternative government structures, judges, representatives and leaders.
    A NEW JEWISH NATIONAL ASSEMBLY must be set in place to replace the so called Knesset.

    This suggestion of forming an alternative Israeli government is ridiculous. While the current structure of the Israeli government is less than ideal (OK, it sucks) any change must be executed by taking over the existing government from within through democratic means and then changing it. Anything else will destroy the country as Israel cannot afford a coup of any type. If you really want to make changes in the Israeli government then join the ruling party (the Likud), get all your friends and their friends to join and VOTE OUT Netanyahu. Vote Moshe Feiglin to the head of the Likud and you will see revolutionary changes in Israel.

  5. Shmuel HaLevi says:

    @ Jeffrey Cohen:
    News for you Jeffrey.
    I have been a Likud member and a Central Committee member for nearly 20 years. Resigne a year plus ago.
    Also an Invited Consultant to the Ministry of Defense. Due to the fact that I participated on the Peace Marble F-16 co production here and was a Senior-Fellow Engineer, Military Avionics Programs US Department of Defense.
    Most of the top folk in the Likud at one tome or another joined us at our kids weddings and other reunions.
    I am a Member of teh Jabotinsky Honor Guard.
    I know the inner works at the Likud just as much as anyone with long years there.
    Stinks to high heaven. Specially since Sharon and Netanyahu. Rotten to the core.
    Sorry from Moshe really. It is decision to jumpt into that cesspool.
    And the Likud faithfully represents the “combina” as a whole.
    ONLY outside the rotten carcass one may find a solution. The “from within” crowd is either delusional or part of the combina. BTW. Shadow government is a British established practice.

  6. Laura says:

    Lapid and Bennett don’t like Shas; Netanyahu doesn’t like Bennett and knows that adding him would create international costs.

    This really annoys me. Bibi should not be basing his coalition on the approval of the international community. They need to be told to stay out of Israel’s sovereign affairs, not be placated.

  7. Max says:

    I’ll bet Obama doesn’t spend the night in Israel…

    in and out I’ll bet – gone in 60 minutes..

    FYI – My views on Syria are reflected in the mainstream right in America. In this I concur.

    Sen. John McCain “Obama Ignored Security Team Advice to Arm Syria Rebels” 2-11

  8. Max says:

    And here is the reason why

    http://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/richard-cohen-on-syria-obama-looks-the-other-way/2013/02/11/d979eaf0-7478-11e2-aa12-e6cf1d31106b_story.html

    Richard Cohen

    Richard Cohen
    Opinion Writer

    ‘The Obama Doctrine — look the other way

    By Richard Cohen, Monday, February 11, 5:57 PM

    We finally have an Obama Doctrine. It is not quite the one outlined in various major speeches — Cairo, Berlin or the Greco-Roman one delivered at the 2008 Democratic National Convention — but one that has been ingloriously revealed through news leaks and virtually coerced congressional testimony regarding Syria: In a pinch, look the other way.

    We know now that much of the national security apparatus favored taking some action. Leon Panetta, the departing secretary of defense, and Hillary Rodham Clinton, until recently the secretary of state, wanted to arm the Syrian rebels. So did then-CIA Director David Petraeus. The White House vetoed this proposal, ostensibly on the grounds that the very weapons provided could wind up in the hands of al-Qaeda and its affiliates and be used against America or American interests. This is the dreaded — and often hyped — blowback.’

    Providing arms was just one way the Obama administration could have aided the Syrian insurgents.

    —-
    etc etc..

  9. Avigdor Ben-Dov says:

    Jeffrey Cohen has a strong argument. Faiglin has been led along slowly to make any inside effort of his ineffective. He has been marginalized and neutralized by the Netanyahu forces. I quit the Likud because I saw
    what Sharon did and what Bibi also has in him to do: major concessions to the PA and cow-towing to Obama. There was no one else on the right to vote for except this sad weak PM. All we can do is hope for Divine help and try to prevent more “freezes” and movement to follow the Saudi plan–Jews out!

  10. Bernard Ross says:

    Max Said:

    Providing arms was just one way the Obama administration could have aided the Syrian insurgents.

    How does this help Israel? they are just anti Israel as Assad? They were complaining that Assas hadn’t responded to Israel’s attack. The saudis are arming the islamic insurgents, perhaps Obama is satisfied with this result.

    …that the Kurds might break away (Kurdistan is the next Palestine),

    Richard Cohen,believed that this should be prevented but I disagree, a stronger kurdistan is better for the west and Israel.

  11. Max says:

    The article below is very current especially as the military sitrep. America/and or the West must act now! They are not ‘all the same’ – that is an attitude of blind bigotry and shows how overriding hatred results in self-destruction.
    Assad is falling no matter what – it makes a big difference who triumphs in the end. There will be no ‘failed state’, no Alawite enclave, no ongoing Iranian-Hezbollah insurgency – that is all political disinformation and Machiavellianism. This conflict is all or nothing – that is simply the military situation – one side wins and the other side will get wiped out completely – there is nowhere to hide especially not places like Lattakia.
    The end game is Islamists versus Secular rebels – in that there are many groups on both sides not all are allied with each other and not at all the same.
    The Jihadist organizations and countries of the world have had no hesitation to put their foot in the revolution. The base population of Syria is or was very moderate, unfortunately Obama’s and the West’s inaction as they have been slaughtered has given the Islamist elements a strong persuasion in the population.

    The end game – Isalmists versus Secularists is coming and soon.

    The plan outlined below will secure a secular state with obligations and alliances with the West it would place CW and WMD under Western control or influence – it is not too late.
    If Jihadists win in the endgame, the West and specifically Obama is to blame for allowing it from the start. .

    Footnote: There was an influx of arms to the secular rebels in the last month which might be the reason the tide of battle has turned. Yugoslavian wire guided anti-tank weapons, M69 anti-tank and French rocket pods, recoiless artillery, sophisticated grenade launchers etc.
    Donors unknown – European countries? – All to the secular groups not the Islamist groups – someone putting their influence there..

    The Saudis armed the Islamist groups not the secular. The commander seiging Kwers Airport complained last week he had received no help , no weapons from anyone – all they had were weapons taken in battle. Meanwhile Al Nusra’s backers gave them weapons and money. They used their money to feed much of Aleppo and other parts of Syria thus converting many parts of Syria to their cause.
    There are maybe more than 30 different groups in Damascus alone about half secular and half Islamist

    Assad is about to lose Dier Ezzor, Al Raqah and Idlib provinces as well as Aleppo, Idlib City and the remaining northern airports. Dara, to the south, remains an inferno and graveyard for the regime’s armour.

    At that point the World will determine Assad has lost and then that is the time to back the secular elements fully.

    http://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/david-ignatius-what-path-now-for-syria/2013/02/12/69b233f2-754b-11e2-95e4-6148e45d7adb_story.html

  12. Max says:

    International covert attention is probably on the siege of Wadi Daif government army base on the outskirts of the city of Maaret al-Numan, by Al Nusra in Idlib Province. This is a CW storage and WMD and weapons factory- with possibly up to 1,000 Iranian workers there It should be a very interesting situation develop. An airstrike would release toxic clouds or allow looting, but a takeover by AL Nusra would be unacceptable.

    The article below is from 2012 but it now becomes ever more relevant as the whole of Idlib province will fall within a month or at any time – outside of Aleppo and to the south weest – the area and battle is all with Al Nusra. This is their second stage after they took Taftanaz Military Helicopter Base.

    Al Nusra is now making a concentrated assault on the Wadi Daif Military Base.

    Read more: U.S. closely monitors Syria’s chemical arsenal – The Denver Post http://www.denverpost.com/nationworld/ci_21768364/u-s-closely-monitors-syrias-chemical-arsenal#ixzz2KjbqQSrB

  13. Bernard Ross says:

    Max Said:

    The Saudis armed the Islamist groups not the secular.

    This is the key phrase. Not just arms but also the mercenaries, the same who were in Iraq and Libya. I venture to say that there is no daylight between the real(not for public consumption)US position and the saudi position. I have been saying for a while that a grand deal has been made to support theSaudi/Qatari/Sunni/Salafi/Qaeda/MB/jihadist axis. The Hamas/MB/Egypt/Qatari deal with Israel/US is an indication of the workings. There are no complaints from the US or west regarding the Saudi/Qatari funding and arming of the Jihadists; the secular rebels are hardly being funded;the US and west know that not funding the seculars means the jihadis will win.
    Keep in mind that the US and west have been maintaining a stable supply of oil to a high degree of satisfaction with the Saudis and GCC countries. The basis of Saudi rule and control of its population is the wahabbi which is the radical sect behind the Taliban. Somehow, with all these ingredients, the West, especially the US has been extremely satisfied with the arrangement. Why would it be difficult to understand that the west would want to expand the arrangement to other less compliant areas.

  14. Max says:

    So nobody has any comment on except the conspiracy theorist who is not talking to me?

    Hmm…

    ———————

    “the US and west know that not funding the seculars means the jihadis will win.”

    Be careful – you are starting to agree with me.
    ———————–

    BTW John McCain is on Twitter..

    not that I care but ..go figure..

    “John McCain ?@SenJohnMcCain

    Disappointed but not surprised by the President’s failure to seriously address the issue of 60,000 dead in #Syria. #SOTU”

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