May 17, 2009

Netanyahu-Obama Meeting: An Array of Unknowns

Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu is coming to Washington Monday to an uncertain future with President Obama.

After 40 years of American-Israeli rejectionism of a two-state solution to Israeli aggression, all eyes are on Obama and any signals of a change in direction in Middle East policy.

Is Obama serious about holding Israel accountable and dragging it into the world consensus against its continued human rights violations and illegal settlements?

Really no one seems to know. J-Street is cheering Obama on. Thoughtful bloggers are hoping. But the composition of the 18th Knesset of this state of 7,000,000 citizens has veered far to the right.

Personally, I will not harbor great hope as the world watches for a U.S. shift, but only because I don't want to get disappointed.

Phyllis Bennis, a fellow of the Institute for Policy Studies and the Transnational Institute in Amsterdam, writes:

So, what do we look out for?

At the recent AIPAC convention, Obama administration officials’ and supporters’ speeches put greater emphasis on Israeli actions than was ever true during the Bush years. Senator John Kerry called for a settlement freeze; Vice-President Biden called for Israel to ‘not build settlements, dismantle outposts and allow Palestinians access to freedom of movement.’

If President Obama, meeting with Netanyahu, demands a real settlement freeze – meaning an end to construction, expansion and building in all settlements, not only outposts – it could signify a real change in U.S. policy towards Israel. But only if it is backed up by specific enforcement mechanisms – like conditioning all (or even part) of the annual $3 billion in U.S. military aid to Israel until there is tangible, internationally-confirmed action on the ground.

That would certainly be a change we could believe in.President Obama’s acceptance of mere words from Netanyahu, on the other hand, whether he ‘accepts’ a settlement freeze or ‘agrees’ to a new round of talks about talks with the Palestinians, and not imposing any conditions to make sure it happens, will indicate that so far, at least, U.S. support for Israeli occupation and apartheid remain intact. And any ‘deal’ that offers Israel any promise of U.S. support for or involvement in a military strike against Iran, will undermine whatever small move towards justice might be possible from a settlement freeze or removal of roadblocks.

Lots to watch for. Stay tuned.

1 comment:

  1. People forget why AIPAC seems to have so much power in Washington. The agenda they push is congruent with the agendas of Big Oil, the arms merchants, and the mercenary companies. Addressing the corporate roots of the problem is so important.