Thursday, 25 March 2010

Barack Obama leaves Netanyahu to work something out and goes for dinner....alone

Binyamin Netanyahu was humiliated when, while meeting with the President of the United States in the White House, he refused to back down on his plans to build more settlement in occupied territories of the West Bank.

The United Nations, of which Israel is a member and the United States, which is a generous funder of Israel, have both demanded that no new homes be built on what the UN declare to be Palestinian lands. Mr Netanyahu disagrees, and his government has given the go ahead for a mass of building works.

So Mr Obama, faced with the immovable, left the meeting with Netanyahu and went to dinner. He invited the prime minister to stay at the White House, consult with advisors and “let me know if there is anything new”, according to a US congressman.

The Times reports that one Israeli newspaper called the meeting “a hazing in stages”, poisoned by mistrust. Another said that the prime minister had received “the treatment reserved for the President of Equatorial Guinea”. (I’m not sure why the President of Equatorial Guinea would get that treatment from the President of the USA. In fact, as a president and head of state, he is entitled by protocol to a better reception than a mere prime minister.

That aside, Netanyahu and team were sent off to the Roosevelt Room and after the president had eaten, had another brief meeting with Mr Obama. The prime minister also extended his stay for emergency talks aimed at restarting peace negotiations. However, with no progress being made he left for Israel with no official statement from either side.

It is an embarrassment that he had to return home isolated and embarrassed. He may have found George Bush a walk over. The current president is a different kettle of fish.

I try not to take sides in the Palestine-Israel affair, simply because it is too complicated for me to understand. What I can see is that, under the UN agreed situation Israel has a right to exist, and within its own borders be safe, so the shelling from Gaza and the intermittent attacks by suicide bombers are intolerable. On the other hand the Palestinians are treated incredibly shabbily by Israel and under Netanyahu, the situation has worsened. Starved of food and water, and essentials, including medicines, life, both in the West Bank and in Gaza, has become equally intolerable. Both sides are at fault, and unless something gives, it will only get worse.

I doubt that Netanyahu is an easy man to deal with. He is a hard line right winger. I imagine that his intransigence was less to Barack Obama’s taste than it had been to George W Bush’s. ‘Know thine enemy’, is a good maxim. Mr Obama has already shown that he does not suffer fools gladly. Clearly Mr N, didn’t bother to learn that, and has paid for it with a red face.

Pictured: The Israeli Prime Minister and President Barack Obama



  1. Despite the Israeli desire to keep the Palestinians on the occupied West Bank out of Israel the government sponsored drive to plant settlers all across the West Bank has resulted in the palestinians being pushed into Bantustans on the West Bank which are encircled by Israeli only roads and Israeli colonial settlements.

    The problem for the Israelis is that the proposed "two-state" solution is simply not workable now due to their massive settlements and land grab in the West Bank. There's not enough left for the Palestinians to make a viable state.

    It's ironic that the Israeli desire to keep the Palestinians at arms length and to treat them as an unwanted consequence of the land grab on the West Bank now means that the only really workable solution is to annex the West Bank and give the palestinians israeli passports.

    The Israelis are between a rock and a hard place. There's no land left to make a viable Palestinian state on the West Bank but the apartheid principles of the Israeli state means that they simply can't give the Palestinians Israeli passports and the US is starting to take a long hard look at whether Israel and the US have the same strategic objectives.

    The Israeli population is alrady 20% Arab and giving the West Bank Palestinians Israeli citizenship would take the ethnic Arab population of Israel up to over 40%

  2. Doug: Thanks you for that helpful and thought provoking post.

    It seemed to me from the little I know about it that the two-state solution was the only one possible. The previous prime minister of Israel and the previous president of the USA were both committed to it, as it seems to me, were the Palestinians (both factions).

    Netanyahu is totally intransigent. I can’t believe that the Israelis voted him in. The likelihood of peace while he is in charge seems to me to be miniscule. But then maybe it’s that anyway.

    Like I say, I don’t understand it, and it’s far too complex to be easily understood, and to be honest, I haven’t the time or inclination to study it, so I won’t bother trying to explain how I see it; you’d find it naive!

    I think though, that Barack Obama won’t waste time with time wasters. If he and the Israelis see their objectives going in different directions that could leave a huge hole in the peace process, in Israel’s funding and in Obama’s re-election fund.

    What message would that send to Syria, Iran and the other militant Arab states?

  3. I long ago gave up trying to understand what really goes on in that part of the world.

    But it's remarkable that the Israelis take for granted that the support of their greatest ally is eternal and open ended, regardless of the intransigent policies they pursue. Perhaps it's just a cold, and so far realistic, political calculation about the important political support of the American Jewish community.

    Maybe Obama can do something to alter this pattern. Netanyahu certainly got a cold reception at the White House. And I hope that the president gave him an earfull. The announcement of new settlements while VP Biden was in country was a deliberate slap in the face by Netanyahu or elements of his government. Biden should have cancelled the remainder of his trip on the spot.

    Later, Netanyahu failed for days to return a call from the Secretary of State. This behavior toward an essential ally is arrogant beyond belief.

  4. I'd no idea, Danny, that Netanyahu had insulted the Secretary of State and the VP like that.

    In diplomatic circles isn't it normal to respond "tit for tat"?

    Perhaps that was Mr Obama's response. "I'm off for dinner, Yum Yum. You can send out for a sandwich"

  5. Yes Tris....The deliberate insult to the Vice President while on a goodwill trip to Israel was really big news here. I can't imagine why Joe didn't get back on the plane then and there. And the Israeli government would only say that it regretted the "timing" of the announcement of the new settlements.

    And the US Secretary of State is accustomed to having her phone calls promptly returned, even by a Head of State....LOL.

    Finally, Netanyahu was absolutely defiant on the issue of the new settlements in his AIPAC speech on Tuesday.

    All this set the stage for the White House reporters, no comment from anyone, before or after.....and Netanyahu waiting while the President had dinner without him. That meeting just had to be VERY icy.

  6. LOL Danny. It seems that these two just don't hit it off.

    Even I couldn't leave someone without sommething to eat while I went off to the White House dining room and had dinner. I mean Michelle musta had enough stuff in for one extra, don't you think?

    Netanyahu is a nob. No doubt about it. When the US pays a lot of your bills you don't insult their VP and then their Secretary of State.

    And defiant is the wrong attitude to go into talks with.... but with that man it doesn't surprise me.

    He's not an asset to his country.

    Ddidn't I read that he and heis wife used to emply illegal aliens as domestics because they were cheaper than Israelis?

  7. Tris...I suspect that they could have managed one more for dinner...LOL. As much of an actual slap in the face that White House protocol would permit I guess. I hadn't heard about the employment of the domestic help. But Netanyahu has certainly been a thorn in the side of American Presidents back to Bill Clinton, as they've tried to advance a realistic peace plan.

  8. PS:

    Shows you what to expect from a guy with an elite American education. They say you can always tell a Harvard man....but you can't tell him MUCH.

  9. LOL@Danny,

    You can tell Mr Netanyahu was American educated. He speaks English with a strong American accent (I know Danny, there are hundreds of American accents LOL, but excuse please this dumb Scotsman....)

    Yes, I seem to recall that Netty had another crack at being prime minister back in the 90s and scuppered a peace process that was working out nicely. I guess that was in Clinton's day.

  10. Oh and I love that saying... lol.... I must remember it, it's a corker

  11. LOL @ Tris......Yes, it's one of those all purpose jokes. Just substitute Harvard with the prominent university name of your choice. :-)