President Obama and Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu met in New York yesterday and there was more talk about the president playing golf in Israel and visiting the country in his post-presidency than there was about the vaunted two-state solution.
Many liberal Americans have set store by the idea that Obama is going to unhatch a November surprise— and push Israel to agree to parameters of a two-state solution. There was no sign of that yesterday, even as the president issued a “guarantee” that he will visit Israel often.
Netanyahu said that Obama would always be a “welcome guest in Israel” and teased the president about the golf course next to his house in Israel, “a terrific golf course.”
“We’ll set up a tee time,” Obama said, without any feeling. But later he suggested he really would show up in the country.
I guarantee you that I will visit Israel often, because it is a beautiful country with beautiful people. And Michelle and the girls I think resent the fact that I’ve not taken them on most of these trips, so they’re insistent that I do take them. Of course, they will appreciate the fact that the next time I visit Israel I won’t have to sit in bilats — (laughter) — but instead can enjoy the sights and sounds of a remarkable country.
Here’s video of that last meeting. Though maybe it won’t be the last.
The president offered only the weakest promise of doing anything in the next few months on achieving an agreement between Israel and Palestine. The wire services heard resignation in this statement:
Obviously, I’m only going to be President for another few months. The Prime Minister will be there quite a bit longer. And our hope will be that in these conversations we get a sense of how Israel sees the next few years, what the opportunities are and what the challenges are in order to assure that we keep alive the possibility of a stable, secure Israel at peace with its neighbors, and a Palestinian homeland that meets the aspirations of their people.
Diana Buttu said– in an IMEU statement— that President Obama had set out eight years ago by saying settlements needed to be halted. And finished up the same way, saying that settlements need to be halted. Without having any effect.
If the next president continues down the same path as Obama and his predecessors, of attempting to appease an intransigent, hardline Israeli government, they will achieve the same measure of success — which is to say, they will also fail miserably.
Nathan Thrall says much the same in the latest New York Review of Books, in an excellent and bleak piece on Obama’s “last chance.” Obama will have done nothing at all to solve the conflict if he fails to lay down parameters for a resolution– “he will have left no mark”– but even those parameters will be Israel-tilted and will produce nothing. The Washington crowd can’t face the fact the two-state solution is over.
Where US officials come down on a parameters resolution depends to a significant degree on whether they believe the two-state solution is dying or already dead. Those who think it is merely dying—most in the administration—see a parameters resolution as a way to give new hope to hopeless Palestinians, inject a dose of realism into both societies about the compromises that will be required, ratchet up pressure on Israel to reverse steps undermining a two-state solution, and provide grounds for the Palestinian leadership to claim that its hand was forced by international law.
Those who think the two-state solution is already dead, however, worry that a parameters resolution will simply give new life to the lie of a “temporary occupation” that will end in the next round of talks, meanwhile wasting the time of the US and the international community with plans, pleas, and bribes to gain the parties’ acceptance as Israel gobbles up more of Jerusalem and the West Bank.
Thrall is more honest than the New York Review of Books usually is about the Israel lobby. He says that Obama’s biggest obstacle to taking action is “domestic politics,” including Haim Saban and Dennis Ross and “donors to the Democratic Party.”
And yes– proving that point, all but two or three Democratic senators landed on Obama this week, at the behest of AIPAC, warning him not to take any actions that would pressure Israel. Maybe that’s why Obama guarantees that he will visit Israel often. Because he needs to raise money for his presidential library? Just guessing.
Speaking of the lobby and the lack of straightforwardness about it, the New York Times published a report on Netanyahu’s goals in his speech to the UN General Assembly today by Peter Baker, the new Jerusalem bureau chief. Baker says that the audience of international diplomats will be “useful foils for Mr. Netanyahu as he makes his points to a wider world.” My emphasis; Donald Johnson points out that “wider world” is a euphemism, and a deceptive one. He writes:
Netanyahu according to this is making his case to a wider world. But Baker means Congress. What wider world does he imagine that likes Netanyahu and sympathizes with the settlement policy? I think Netanyahu is preaching to his choir, the Christian Zionists and AIPAC and Congress.
I know Netanyahu is trying to make friends with others, but who? Rightwing Hindu nationalists in India? Would they be natural allies? I want to be fair in case Baker actually has someone in mind besides Congress.