Detailed Analysis of the Obama-Netanyahu Meeting by Barry Rubin
Obviously, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s job was to make a good impression including the flattery of President Barack Obama. He thus thanked him:
“For your friendship to Israel and your friendship to me. You’re a great leader–a great leader of the United States, a great leader of the world, a great friend of Israel, and someone who is acutely cognizant of our security concerns. And the entire people of Israel appreciate it, and I speak on their behalf.”
But this is more than flattery. Netanyahu is defining him as a great leader in part because he is a great friend of Israel. In other words, he is locking him in on his commitments to what Obama called an “extraordinary relationship.” This is the standard which the American president has set for the relationship and Netanyahu will hold him to it.
He also wants to define common interests: “We share the same goals and we face the same threats.” This happens to be true though it may take some time for Obama to recognize it.
Netanyahu also wants to stake out his own identity as a peacemaker:
“The common goal is peace. Everybody in Israel, as in the United States, wants peace. The common threat we face are terrorist regimes and organizations that seek to undermine the peace and endanger both our peoples.”
But how is peace to be obtained? Who is the common enemy?
A. The Iran issue
“In this context, the worst danger we face is that Iran would develop nuclear military capabilities. Iran openly calls for our destruction, which is unacceptable by any standard. It threatens the moderate Arab regimes in the Middle East. It threatens U.S. interests worldwide. But if Iran were to acquire nuclear weapons, it could give a nuclear umbrella to terrorists, or worse, it could actually give terrorists nuclear weapons. And that would put us all in great peril.”
This is broadening out the threat beyond Israel to encompass U.S. interests and those of moderate Arab regimes, as I have long argued
So Netanyahu reinforced what he wanted to, without mentioning the engagement part:
“So in that context, I very much appreciate, Mr. President, your firm commitment to ensure that Iran does not develop nuclear military capability, and also your statement that you’re leaving all options on the table.”
B. Israel-Palestinian Negotiations
On this issue, Netanyahu stressed his eagerness to cooperate, his “desire to move the peace process forward.” Indeed, he was ready to move very fast: “And I want to start peace negotiations with the Palestinians immediately. I would like to broaden the circle of peace to include others in the Arab world, if we could….”
Here came Netanyahu’s most quoted lines, which should be quoted fully:
“I want to make it clear that we don’t want to govern the Palestinians. We want to live in peace with them. We want them to govern themselves, absent a handful of powers that could endanger the state of Israel. And for this there has to be a clear goal. The goal has to be an end to conflict. There will have to be compromises by Israelis and Palestinians alike. We’re ready to do our share. We hope the Palestinians will do their share, as well. If we resume negotiations, as we plan to do, then I think that the Palestinians will have to recognize Israel as a Jewish state; will have to also enable Israel to have the means to defend itself. And if those conditions are met, Israel’s security conditions are met, and there’s recognition of Israel’s legitimacy, its permanent legitimacy, then I think we can envision an arrangement where Palestinians and Israelis live side by side in dignity, in security, and in peace.”
Here is Netanyahu’s view of the two-state solution. If the Palestinians meet Israeli conditions, then there will be the “side by side” arrangement Obama has raised.
This is critical: a two-state solution is not something given as a present at the beginning of negotiations, it is a reward for the proper compromises that enable such a peace to succeed.
That is the key point of the Israeli position, regarding not just Netanyahu but in practice across much of the political spectrum.
Netanyahu fully recognizes the interrelationship of issues and says both are important:
“It would help, obviously, unite a broad front against Iran if we had peace between Israel and the Palestinians. And conversely, if Iran went nuclear, it would threaten the progress towards peace and destabilize the entire area, and threaten existing peace agreement.”
And so he concludes, “We see exactly eye to eye on this—that we want to move simultaneously and then parallel on two fronts: the front of peace, and the front of preventing Iran from acquiring nuclear capability.”
Many might view this as papering over differences but it really isn’t. The point Netanyahu makes is that the two countries agree in principle whatever differences there are on details. And after all, this is the same basic position Obama has stated, though there is a bit of reversal on apparent priorities.
And then Netanyahu raises another key Israeli point: It is quite possible to make things far worse:
“If we end up with another Gaza — the President has described to you there’s rockets falling out of Gaza — that is something we don’t want to happen, because a terror base next to our cities that doesn’t call — recognize Israel’s existence and calls for our destruction and asks for our destruction is not arguing peace.
“If, however, the Palestinians recognize Israel as the Jewish state, if they — if they fight terror, if they educate their children for peace and to a better future, then I think we can come at a substantive solution that allows the two people to live side by side in security and peace and I add prosperity, because I’m a great believer in this.”
What is the point, after all, of pushing through a two-state solution which:
–Makes Palestine a radical Islamist state tied to Iran and Syria.
–Creates a Palestine in which every school, mosque, and media institution teaches Palestinians that all of Israel is theirs and they must strive to conquer it. This would be a Palestine full of incitement to violence against Israelis which will inspire scores of people to become terrorists and thousands of others to support them.
–Sets off a new Israel-Palestine cross-border war, with the Palestine government either looking the other way or actively assisting terrorists.
–Creates a Palestine that invites in Iranian, Syrian, or other armies, or gets missiles from them targeted at Israeli cities.
–Extends the conflict another generation by using the state as a base for a “second stage” to finish off Israel.
And if Israel were to take risks and make concessions will they be reciprocated? And if the United States and Europe makes promises to Israel will they be kept?
After all, the 1990s’ peace process taught Israelis the answer was “no” on both counts.
This is Israel’s central point: peace, yes, but only a real, lasting, and stable situation which makes things better rather than worse.
A two-state solution only if it isn’t a two-mistake anti-solution.
*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. His latest books are The Israel-Arab Reader (seventh edition), with Walter Laqueur (Viking-Penguin); the paperback edition of The Truth About Syria (Palgrave-Macmillan); A Chronological History of Terrorism, with Judy Colp Rubin, (Sharpe); and The Long War for Freedom: The Arab Struggle for Democracy in the Middle East (Wiley). To read and subscribe to MERIA, GLORIA articles, or to order books, go to http://gloria-center.org
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