Saturday, May 16, 2009

Gut check

President Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu will meet face to face in the Oval Office on Monday. I have great respect for Mr. Obama's intelligence and desire to do the right thing, but this is a big chance for him to show the world that he has the testicular intestinal fortitude to stand up to Mr. Netanyahu. If there's any consistent position Netanyahu has, it is that he will do anything possible to delay, obstruct, and otherwise interfere with any moves made toward a two-state solution in Palestine. (It certainly doesn't help to have Avigdor Lieberman as his Foreign Minister.)

Netanyahu is expected to press Obama on a tougher policy toward Iran as a precondition for movement in Palestine. There's also been a lot of talk about Obama wanting movement on Palestine as a precondition for a tougher stance on Iran. Sounds like fun, right? But Obama has a much better bargaining position, due both to his personal popularity and the overwhelming support for a two-state solution world-wide. He needs to use his pocket kings to force concessions out of Netanyahu. The Bush administration mostly gave Israel a free pass for eight years, Mr. Obama needs to jump on this early and put some pressure on Israel to freeze settlements and work toward political reconciliation. Too many presidents wait until their last year or so in office to start working on this thorny problem. Mr. Obama needs to start now, and let Mr. Netanyahu know that foot-dragging will not be tolerated.

1 comment:

  1. That Monday meeting is going to be very interesting. We can expect Netanyahu to have some inkling of what Obama will be saying to him, and to have thought out a response. Will he overestimate his level of support in the U.S.? Will he try to drive a wedge between Obama and Jewish supporters of Israel? How often will he be featured on Faux News?