November 10, 2009

Israel, the U.S. and the Arab World

Obama Asks Netanyahu for More Time for Dialogue with Iran

November 10, 2009

President Barack Obama and prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu talked for more than an hour and a half in the White House Tuesday, Nov. 9, all but fifteen minutes without advisers. There were no cameras and the usual post-meeting press briefings, joint communiques and interviews were cancelled. A curt White House statement said:
"The president reaffirmed our strong commitment to Israel's security, and discussed security cooperation on a range of issues. The president and prime minister also discussed Iran and how to move forward on Middle East peace."
Netanyahu then headed out to Paris to see President Nicolas Sarkozy later Tuesday.

DEBKAfile reported Monday: US official sources admitted Monday, Nov. 9, that Tehran had finally blocked every compromise offered by the Obama administration through backdoor channels. This and the US president Barack Obama's Middle East peace initiative have both run into the sand. Secretary of state Hillary Clinton and Middle East envoy George Mitchell informed him last week after their failed bid to persuade the Palestinians to sit down and talk peace with Israel.

Clinton found Mahmoud Abbas in Abu Dhabi with one foot out of the Palestinian Authority leadership and exploiting Obama's misplaced reliance on a total Israeli settlement construction freeze on the West Bank and in Jerusalem to strike a rejectionist position for the sake of restoring his tattered credibility on the Palestinian street. On that score, there is nothing much for Obama to discuss with visiting Binyamin Netanyahu Tuesday, Nov. 10, although both found themselves under pressure to meet during Netanyahu's brief visit to Washington to address the General Assembly of the North American Jewish Federations.

A new Palestinian leader might find a way out of the impasse, but none is in the sights of the US president, the Israeli prime minister or the Palestinians. Even if a reasonable figure was found, it would take a newcomer to the PA leadership a couple of years to find his feet and establish himself. During that period, assuming the lid stayed clamped down on Palestinian terrorist action from the West Bank - which is far from a certainty - the peace track would be frozen solid.

Our Washington sources do not expect Mitchell to return to the Middle East any time soon.

The situation with Iran is much more fraught because time is running out as Iran speeds toward its nuclear and missile goals. In the summer, Netanyahu gave Obama a guarantee to hold off on a military initiative against Iran until the end of the year to give his diplomatic engagement effort a chance.

This deadline is now only seven weeks away. DEBKAfile's Washington sources are assuming that the US president will use the Israeli prime minister's brief Washington visit to ask him to extend this deadline a while longer to permit him a last throw at cajoling Iran to accept a deal over its uranium enrichment. Our sources do not expect Netanyahu to refuse the president, both for the sake of his good standing with the Obama administration and because he too is in no hurry to cross the Rubicon for an act of war against Iran...

Obama Reaffirms 'Strong Commitment' to Israel's Security

November 9, 2009

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and U.S. President Barack Obama held a private meeting on Monday night, during which the two discussed Iran's nuclear ambitions as well as stalled Middle East peace talks.
"The president reaffirmed our strong commitment to Israel's security, and discussed security cooperation on a range of issues," said a statement issued by the White House after the one hour and forty minute closed-door session concluded.
A press briefing with Netanyahu scheduled for Tuesday morning was canceled. The prime minister leaves Washington on Tuesday for Paris, where he is scheduled to meet with French President Nicholas Sarkozy on Wednesday.

Prior to the meeting, sources close to Netanyahu said he would tell Obama that he was "very serious" about wanting to advance peace talks with the Palestinians during the two meeting on Monday.

The last-minute scheduling of Netanyahu's White House meeting, after Israeli officials said over the past several weeks that Netanyahu hoped to see Obama, was widely seen as a sign of strained relations between the two leaders.
"We mean business," Netanyahu was to tell the American president, and add that Israel was ready to be "generous" in scaling back the construction in West Bank settlements.
Before sitting down with Netanyahu, Obama and members of his senior staff visited with Jewish leaders from across the country who were attending the meeting of the Jewish Federations of North America. Obama thanked the Jewish leaders for their work in their own communities, and recognized the Jewish Federations for the "countless hours of tzedakah (charity) performed every day of every week."

In the past, Netanyahu has rebuffed Obama's calls for a complete freeze on settlement activity, including the expansion of current ones. The Palestinians have demanded a settlement freeze as a condition for the resumption of stalled peace talks. The opposing standpoints have effectively brought the peace process to a halt.

Netanyahu was also going to tell Obama that there was never any Israeli intention to halt settlement construction before entering into talks with the Palestinians.
"What more do I need to do?" he was to ask.
Sources close to the prime minister have said that Netanyahu is convinced he is doing everything in his power to advance the peace process.

Netanyahu was also to voice his willingness to make concessions in efforts to achieve an agreement. However, he was to stress his refusal to compromise Israel's security in the process, placing an emphasis on the importance of preventing the influx of weapons into any territory that Israel should withdraw from under a future deal.

He was to add that up until this point, the security arrangements between Israel and Lebanon and Israel and Gaza have proven ineffective.

However, at the State Department, spokesman Ian C. Kelly said the administration's special envoy for Mideast peace, George Mitchell, has no immediate plans to return to the region to continue his push for a resumption of peace talks.

White House spokesman Robert Gibbs fielded questions ahead of the Netanyahu-Obama meeting, saying that the "policy of the United States government for many decades has been no more settlements. That's not something that is new to this administration. It's something that I think has gotten disproportionate media coverage, but it's not a policy difference in this administration and previous administrations.

Meeting Between Netanyahu, Obama Ends After Nearly 2 Hours

Jerusalem Post
November 9, 2009

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu held a lengthy meeting with US President Barack Obama Monday night which addressed the Middle East peace process, Iran and Israeli security.

The one-hour-and-forty-minute parley was accompanied by an unusual news blackout, as the standard photo op and press availability were not held. In addition, Netanyahu canceled a scheduled briefing with Israeli reporters and Defense Minister Ehud Barak scrapped plans for radio interviews following the talks.

Instead, both sides referred to a brief statement put out by the White House after the Monday evening meeting, about half of which was one-on-one and half of which included four members of staff on each side.

Barak, Israeli Ambassador Michael Oren, National Security Council head Uzi Arad and PMO adviser Yitzhak Molcho joined Netanyahu.
"The president reaffirmed our strong commitment to Israel's security, and discussed security cooperation on a range of issues," the US statement read. "The president and prime minister also discussed Iran and how to move forward on Middle East peace."
Earlier in the day, Obama met with about 60 senior representatives of Jewish federations following the cancellation of his appearance at the federations' conference Tuesday.

Speaking at a White House reception, Obama urged the group to address health care legislation making its way through Congress, a major priority of the president.

He also thanked them for the "countless hours of tzedakah [charity] performed every day of every week," according to a statement put out after the event by the Jewish Federations of North America.

Participants told The Jerusalem Post that Obama did not address the issue of Israel or the wider Middle East during his very short remarks, but that several members of the crowd raised the issue with him did his brief appearance in the room.

Back to The Lamb Slain Home Page