DC theater at its best. That’s what we had today as the much-anticipated photo-op meeting between US President Barack Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu took place.
Both parties got what they wanted. Obama had a warm press conference with Bibi, sending the message that American-Israeli relations are as warm as ever and reassuring his Jewish Democratic base (which he is more worried about than he needs to be) that he still loves Israel. He got more statements from Netanyahu committing to a general concept of peace and a lot of praise from Bibi about Obama’s concern for Israel.
Bibi got a good deal more. Not only was he able to show Israel that the relationship with America remains strong, but he got Obama to publicly imply that the US would continue to back Israeli nuclear ambiguity and to say that he would side with Netanyahu on moving to direct talks with the Palestinian Authority despite there being no indication that actions would be taken to make this politically feasible for Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.
But in the end, it was just a show. Nothing much changed today, though perhaps Bibi’s closing words, urging Obama to visit Israel, set the stage for the next act.
In the next few days we may find out, that something more important happened behind closed doors between the two. But one thing that was anticipated that seems not to have come about is Obama pressing Netanyahu for an extension of the settlement freeze.
Indeed, just as the meeting began, Americans for Peace Now (APN) delivered a petition with nearly 16,000 signatures urging President Obama to press for that extension. I applaud APN’s effort, and the petition was the right thing to do. But I am also relieved that, apparently, Obama did not heed that call. (more…)