by Barry Rubin
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 statement 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
What Obama wants is to be able to claim a diplomatic success in advancing the Israel-Palestinian "peace process," perhaps the only international issue 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
And he also wants to keep the Israel-Arab front calm while he deals with
So here's the deal. Give
As the Israeli government explained it, the new list "is limited to weapons, war materiel, and dual-use items." Such military items include--aside from the obvious--a long list of chemicals, fertilizers, knives, optical equipment, light control equipment, missile-related computer technologies, and so on.
Construction material will be carefully monitored and allowed in only for specified projects.
At present, there are 45 such projects approved by
(Here's a riddle for you. What's the difference between the Islamist and Western views of peace? The Islamists never lose a war because no matter how badly they are defeated they deem it a victory to survive and continue the battle. The West never loses a war because it defines the end of any war as victory no matter what the result.)
What a terrible strategy, though. Obama said:
"And we believe that there is a way to make sure that the people of
Really? How the hell are you going to do that? Read the latest speech by Hamas's leader and wonder what possible conception of Hamas Obama might have. Doesn't he realize that if
Oh, I'm just being coy. I know what Obama thinks: The people prosper, the middle class gets stronger, the masses demand moderation and Hamas's downfall. This is a view of revolutionary Islamism and the workings of dictatorships that boggles the mind. It is the mindless idea that prosperity brings peace and moderation, and that a regime ready to torture, murder, and indoctrinate people will be easily removed.
There is the possibility of the
Obama praised Netanyahu just as much on the "peace process." The president said: "I believe that Prime Minister Netanyahu wants peace. I think he's willing to take risks for peace." Remember that quote when Obama turns on Netanyahu again after the November elections. As for risks, we've had enough of those, thank you very much.
But Netanyahu's goal was to make Obama happy with the minimum of risk.
In other words, if a diplomatic settlement were ever to be reached then borders would be shifted to allow
Continuing to freeze construction on settlements will give Netanyahu a domestic problem but he can hold his coalition together, if necessary by adjusting it. Parties are constrained from walking out of the government because if elections were to be held Netanyahu would win in a landslide partly at their expense.
Another thing Netanyahu wants is for Obama to escalate pressure on
For example, last October the Obama Administration, through the State Department, did endorse the "settlement bloc" commitment, but then appeared to have forgotten about it. The U.S. government also broke its promises over the settlement freeze (accepting Jerusalem's exclusion and then howling about it a few months later) and regarding the nonproliferation conference (pledging to oppose any reference to Israel's nuclear weapons and then going back on that point).
There is also clarity about the possibility of Obama turning to a much tougher stance on
The Palestinian Authority is so uneager for a peace agreement that anything said by
The next Congress will be more likely to constrain the president and who knows what will happen in future. A building freeze might be ended on strong grounds the next time. It is quite possible that
This, then, is the best policy for
Barry Rubin is director of the Global Research in International Affairs (GLORIA) Center and editor of the Middle East Review of International Affairs (MERIA) Journal
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