The meeting between Prime Minister Netanyahu and President Obama is over. The two leaders first met privately, with their discussions going beyond scheduled time. They were then joined by advisors — Netanyahu by top aide Ron Dermer and National Security Advisor Uzi Arad. Obama by US National Security Advisor James Jones.
Much has been made of the need for positive personal chemistry to be established between the two, as the human relationship is said to be important in greasing the wheels of diplomacy. (As press here has put it, inexplicably to me, trust has to be established. ) I don’t know to what degree the chemistry was positive — and undoubtedly more will follow on this.
At a press conference after the meeting, the two declared that they would work together to meet the challenges of the Middle East, including Iran. But what is clear is that there was no meeting of the minds.
Obama reiterated his two previously stated positions: That the dialogue with Iran should have no artificial time limit put on it and will be open-ended, although he would like to see progress by the end of the year and will consider other options such as sanctions in due course if necessary (no mention of a military option). And that his goal is two states living side by side in peace, which he hopes to achieve before the end of his term.
Netanyahu, for his part, repeated his previous position: that he would like to see the Palestinians govern themselves. But he has in mind some sort of autonomy, less than a full state. He referred to economic development and other assistance for the Palestinian Authority, but — Baruch Hashem! — he did not speak either of a Palestinian state or a two-state solution.
His emphasis, we were told before the meeting, was to be on Iran and the need for strong action. As would be expected, whatever was determined in terms of US sanction of/or refusal to sanction Israeli military action against Iran is not being shared. Interestingly, Netanyahu seemed to turn the Obama claim about the need to solve the Palestinian conflict first on its head, saying that more Arab nations need to get involved because of the instability generated by Iran.
Undoubtedly more news — major analysis — on the meeting will be forthcoming in the days ahead.
There’s a tough time ahead for us (see below), whatever may have been said in private or established today in terms of personal relationship between the two leaders. And, just as I suggested that we ask Netanyahu to stay strong before his meeting with Obama, I would like to suggest that now we applaud his strength, let him know we’re behind him, and ask him to retain his resolve.
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UN-related issues that require our attention:
Anne Bayefsky, of Eye on the UN, has written a piece called “Obama’s UN Mistake,” in which she describes the move Obama has made to further empower the UN.
The Security Council, Bayefsky tells us, just a little over a week ago, adopted what is called a “presidential statement.” This one says:
“The Security Council supports the proposal of the Russian Federation to convene, in consultation with the Quartet and the parties, an international conference on the Middle East peace process in Moscow in 2009.”
This statement, while it has no legal status, does require a unanimous vote. This means Obama could have vetoed it, but chose not to.
You’ll note that the statement alludes to consultation with “the parties.” Israel has been working to convince Russia not to hold such a conference this year — and our government is not pleased. Bayefsky sees the 22 nations of the Arab League as being among “the parties” — which squeezes Israel badly.
Israeli UN ambassador Gabriella Shalev issued a statement putting forth Israel’s position:
“Israel does not believe that the involvement of the Security Council contributes to the political process in the Middle East. This process should be bilateral and left to the parties themselves.”
What is more, Shalev expressed dissatisfaction with the timing of this, when she had shared with the Security Council the fact that Netanyahu, in preparation for his meeting with Obama, was working on his approach to dealing with the Palestinians.
The American UN ambassador, Susan Rice, took a very different approach, when she announced to the Security Council that “we intend to integrate the Arab Peace Initiative into our own approach.”
To reporters she said:
“We welcome Foreign Minister Lavrov’s initiative to convene the Council, and we’re very pleased with the constructive and comprehensive statement that will be issued by the president of the Council on the Council’s behalf. This was a product of really collaborative, good-faith efforts by all members of the Council, and we’re pleased with the outcome.”
And worst of all: “The United States cannot be left to do all the heavy lifting by itself, and other countries… must do all that they can to shore up our common efforts.”
This positively screams a warning. Obama has set up a situation in which he doesn’t have to put the screws to Netanyahu himself, he can get the international community to help.
Bayefsky believes Obama has set this up as a “good-cop/bad cop” routine, so that he can rescue Israel, for a price. It’s possible. It’s also possible that he hopes he won’t have as much to answer for with his pro-Israel constituents, if the UN is doing the dirty work.
And we’re not done.
This past week the US formally joined the UN Human Rights Council. This anti-democratic group is virulently anti-Israel. It has adopted more resolutions and decisions condemning Israel than condemning all of the 191 other UN members combined; has held ten regular sessions on human rights, and five special sessions to condemn only Israel; and has insisted on an investigator with an open-ended mandate to condemn Israel, while all other investigators must be regularly renewed.
What is more, the US, along with the four other Western nations sitting on the Council, can expect to be outvoted by nations from other geographic areas, including Cuba, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Djibouti, Bahrain, Qatar, Russia, and China. Actually, the balance of power lies with the Organization of the Islamic States, which has members on the Council from both the African and Asian groupings.
This means the influence the US can have on Council decisions is minimal if not non-existent.
Great situation, is it not?
In the course of the research I’m doing on UNRWA, I came across the following information, which I believe it is valuable to share. It provides a more accurate perspective in the face of the “awfulizing” that is routinely done regarding the situation of the Arabs in Gaza. This comes from an article by Justus Weiner, an international lawyer with the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs.
“…Gaza’s offshore gas deposits are worth an estimated $4 billion. This natural resource could be accessed to improve the lives of residents of Gaza once the anarchy and violence of Hamas is curtailed. Second, the population of Gaza is comparatively healthy and well educated. Life expectancy in the Gaza Strip is more than 72 years, which is higher than in Russia, the Bahamas, India, Ukraine and Glasgow East (Scotland).
“Third, Gaza has a much lower infant mortality rate than Angola, Iran, India, Egypt and Brazil…
“Likewise, despite the ceaseless repetition by journalists that ‘the Gaza Strip is the most densely populated place on Earth,’ it is in fact markedly less densely populated than an array of other locales, including a number of economic success stories such as Monaco, Hong Kong, Singapore and Gibraltar.”
Surprised? Save this and refer to it as necessary.
According to Fox News, American intelligence sources are saying that a secret commando unit under the Joint Special Operations Command is prepared to infiltrate Pakistan and secure its mobile arsenal of nuclear weaponry if it appears that the country is about to fall to the Taliban or Al Qaida. This is significant because Islamic forces have taken territory not far from Islamabad, Pakistan’s capital.
This is good news. It indicates a readiness to deal with an emergency realistically, and not with pie-in-the-sky approaches.
MK Alex Miller (Yisrael Beiteinu) has submitted a bill that would make it illegal to celebrate the Nakba, which means “catastrophe” in Arabic, and is how the Arabs refer to the founding of Israel.
It is unlikely to pass, as it infringes on freedom of speech and right of protest. But none-the-less, this highlights a serious problem in this country. As Miller put it in a statement to the Post:
“From my perspective, it very much harms me, as a citizen, when citizens… mourn the establishment of the State of Israel when they themselves have equal rights in this country.
“If we really want to achieve coexistence, the time has come that we stop this absurd theater.”
A new settlement is scheduled to be built in the Jordan Valley, for the first time in 26 years. To be called Maskiot, it will be established on the ruins of a settlement abandoned years ago.
At the same time we are seeing this: Four years ago, as part of the expulsion from Gush Katif, there were four communities in northern Samaria that were demolished as well. One of those was Homesh.
Last week, in a demonstration approved by the IDF, 1,500 people returned to the site of Homesh; they are working towards the re-building of the community.
Those rallying carried letters of support from members of the current government written for the event:
“I want to bless the participants and support them in the realization of the Zionist way,” wrote Strategic Affairs Minister Moshe Yaalon (Likud).
Minister of Information and Diaspora Yuli Edelstein (Likud), said, “I have the utmost respect for the (former) Homesh settlers and all those who work to resettle the community as part of the settlement enterprise in the Land of Israel.”
Fantastic! This brings hope.