The Spine

What Went On Between Obama and Netanyahu?

By

Well, there was no divorce between the U.S. and Israel. And there was even some respect, if not affection.

Affections, we know, is kept for the Arabs. But this was not quite the venue for showering kisses on the Palestinians. After they are still maintaining the distance of "proximity" talks which means Abbas in Ramallah with Netanyahu and his team in Jerusalem. That's six miles apart, very remote miles. And it's the Palestinians who are keeping the distance.

Barry Rubin, a real expert and a true scholar, is not fooled by anyone. This is still the beginning of a long road. I doubt Obama will see the end, and it will be his fault if he doesn't.

Why was the meeting this time between President Barack H. Obama and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu a success? The answer is simple though not all the reasons are publicly known. So I'll tell you about them.

The president couldn't have been more effusive. They had an "excellent" discussion, Netanyahu's sttement was "wonderful" and the U.S.-Israel relationship is "extraordinary." Hard to believe this is the Obama we've seen before.

Obama wants to improve relations with Israel for several reasons. Obviously, he doesn't want to be bashing Israel in the period leading up to the November elections is an important incentive. Polls show that for Americans his administration's relative hostility toward Israel is its least popular policy. But there is more to this trend than just that point.

What Obama wants is to be able to claim a diplomatic success in advancing the Israel-Palestinian "peace process," perhaps the only one he can so spin. Keeping indirect talks going and even better, moving them up to direct talks is his goal. So he wants Netanyahu's cooperation for that.

The same point holds regarding the Gaza Strip, where Obama wants to claim he has defused a crisis he has called "unsustainable."

(I hate that word. When you hear something is "unsustainable" immediately become suspicious. This has everything to do with perceptions and little to do with realities where quite a lot of things are quite sustainable. Pretty much every single Middle East problem has been sustained for decades.)

And he also wants to keep the Israel-Arab front calm while he deals with Afghanistan, Iraq, and Iran, seeking above all to avoid crises and confrontations and to keep up his (bogus) bargain of trading flattery for popularity.

So here's the deal. Give Israel some U.S. support in exchange for modest steps that the administration hopes accomplishes its goals. Israel will give some things that don't appreciably hurt its interests in order to maintain good relations with the United States.

Make sure to read the rest over at the Gloria Center.

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