Obama will thereby create the space that will enable him to combat Israeli policy that seems wrong to him and in his estimation jeopardizes Israel’s future and also hurts the United States,” Goldberg said. “The Obama of the first term did not come to Israel and demanded a settlement freeze. The Obama of the second term is coming to Israel so he could be in the position to demand a settlement freeze in the future.”
Goldberg to Haaretz: Obama using visit to ‘create the space to combat Israeli policy’ – Obama visits Israel Israel News | HaaretzMarch 20, 2013
President’s visit marks the end to Israeli isolationism – Opinion – Israel News | Haaretz Daily NewspaperMarch 19, 2013
By coming to Israel, Obama blocked Netanyahu from making a third victory trip to Washington and enjoying an enthusiastic reception from the Republicans, who would have invited the prime minister to once again address Congress or arranged some similar celebration. Now Obama is alone in the frame, without his rivals from the Republican Party. Netanyahu will have to deal with him alone, without his conservative cheering squad.
Obama is leaving the “bad cop” role to his secretary of state, John Kerry, who will remain in the region to nag Netanyahu and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas about resuming the diplomatic process. Kerry needs no grooming for this task; he is totally familiar with all the details of the negotiations Israel has held in the past with the Palestinians and with Syria.
This time, however, he isn’t here as an observer, as was the case when he was a senator; now he is the responsible intermediary. If he succeeds in making progress, he will fill his president’s Nobel Prize with some content. If he fails, as did his predecessors, he will be blamed. Obama will already be busy with other things,
Obama has decided to visit Israel because he understood from Netanyahu last week that a two-state solution is possible.
The president and his advisors do not really believe Netanyahu and are not concealing their suspicion towards him. But as far as they are concerned, Netanyahu actually lost the recent elections and will therefore do whatever is asked of him. He has no choice.
Obama is coming in order to apply pressure on Netanyahu’s weak point after the people of Israel have spoken and after America’s fear that Israel was shifting to the right proved to be, for the most part, unfounded.
After winning the hearts of the people, Obama will get down to business. His mission: Renew the alliance with the Israeli public and clarify to Netanyahu that playtime is over. He does not intend to let up until white smoke appears.
new Secretary of State John Kerry phoned Netanyahu and Abbas as soon as he was sworn in.
Kerry is focused, say those who have spoken to him about the Middle East, and about Israel in particular.
“So much of what we aspire to achieve and what we need to do globally, what we need to do in the Maghreb and South Asia, South Central Asia, throughout the Gulf, all of this is tied to what can or doesn’t happen with respect to Israel-Palestine,” he said at his confirmation hearing. “And in some places it’s used as an excuse. In other places it’s a genuine, deeply felt challenge.”
Kerry also believes that time is running out on the two-state solution. “We need to try to find a way forward, and I happen to believe that there is a way forward,” Kerry said just a few days before his appointment was confirmed.
“But I also believe that if we can’t be successful that the door, or window, or whatever you want to call it, to the possibility of a two-state solution could shut on everybody and that would be disastrous in my judgment.”
Palestinian Authority sends opposition figure to deliver rebuke of Obama – Diplomacy & Defense – Israel News | Haaretz Daily NewspaperMarch 19, 2013
Barghouti said he regretted that the little time allocated to Obama’s visit in the West Bank will prevent him from seeing how ethnic separation operates in Hebron, or how discrimination on Israel’s part is expressed in the division of water sources between Israelis and Palestinians.
Even though there is a positive dimension to a visit by an American president to Ramallah and Bethlehem, after the recognition in the United Nations of Palestine as a non-member state, Barghouti also noted a number of negative aspects to the visit, in his opinion: While Obama will place a wreath on the grave of Yitzhak Rabin, he will not include in his Ramallah itinerary the grave of Yasser Arafat.
Obama also refused to meet with the daughter of a Palestinian prisoner, and he will visit the Israel Museum, where archaeological finds stolen from the Palestinian territories are exhibited, said Barghouti.
Resurrecting Obama’s reputation in the Middle East – Opinion – Israel News | Haaretz Daily NewspaperMarch 19, 2013
the president himself has such low expectations of the Israeli and Palestinian leaders he will be meeting, after they repeatedly disappointed him in his first term, that he no longer believes much can be achieved on the peace front. So why wait? Better to get the visit over and done with, demonstrate he is a lover of Zion, deprive his Republican adversaries of an effective talking point, and move on to greener Asian pastures.
That cynical view of the purposes of the Obama White House overlooks one critical objective that the president can achieve on this visit. He can reintroduce himself to the Israeli public as the American leader who does care deeply about their security and well-being, will be – as he has already been – in the trenches with them when the chips are down, means what he says when he vows that he will not allow Iran to acquire nuclear weapons, AND will be their reliable partner in the effort to resolve their existential conflict with the Palestinians.
Obama’ visit: Embrace the victory of politics over substance – Opinion – Israel News | Haaretz Daily NewspaperMarch 18, 2013
Given American (and European) refusal to directly deploy the considerable leverage at their disposal to push Israel to de-occupation, it is better if the President not insist on the immediate resumption of bilateral Israeli-Palestinian negotiations. Israeli impunity and maximalism combined with the asymmetry between the parties – exacerbated rather than mitigated by U.S. policy – guarantees that renewed direct negotiations will do more harm than good, further convincing the respective publics that a deal is impossible. No wonder Naftali Bennet (and Hamas) see no threat in further negotiations, even with Minister Livni at the helm.
What then is left for a visiting President to do? Some cling to the notion that more American assurances and carrots will encourage Israel on the road to peace. That is farcical. The juiciest economic, military and diplomatic carrots have already been conferred on Israel irrespective of its entrenchment of occupation or violations of international law. No American carrot will induce Naftali Bennett or Uri Ariel, or Netanyahu and his faction of annexationists to abandon the settlements. So if the President is unwilling to change the rules of the game, better that he go with the flow, that he embrace and own the primacy of the political in this relationship. He can dust-off and re-tool part of the Clinton playbook of the 1990’s for engineering Israeli politics.
And that is probably what Obama’s visit should and in fact may start to do. By speaking directly to Israelis, including at an especially convened event in Jerusalem, Obama is doing something he avoided in his first term: He is accumulating some personal credit in the bank with the Israeli public. He should be looking to create an opportunity during his second term to draw on that deposit by building toward a clear moment of decision for Israel on the terms of reference for a two-state deal, notably a territorial resolution based on the 1967 lines with equal and minimal land swaps.
In his Jerusalem speech, Obama needs to tell the Israeli left the truth: The change must come from within, from the influence on public opinion and voters’ attitudes. Instead of making the mistake of believing in outside pressure, learn from the settlers how a small and determined group can connect with the mainstream and divert the public’s beliefs for its own purposes.
Ahead of Israel visit, Obama tells US Jewish leaders prospects for Mideast peace are bleak – The Washington PostMarch 16, 2013
President Barack Obama told American Jewish leaders Thursday that near-term prospects for Mideast peace are bleak, downplaying expectations of a breakthrough during his highly anticipated trip to Israel and the West Bank later this month.
Obama emphasized that his intention was not to deliver a “grand peace plan,” according to a person who attended the hourlong private meeting at the White House. But the president said that doesn’t preclude him from launching such an effort in the coming months, the person said, and made clear that peace with the Palestinians was the only way for Israel to achieve long-term security.
Previously, the most dysfunctional relationship had been between George H.W. Bush and Yitzhak Shamir. During their first meeting, the prime minister told Bush that West Bank settlements wouldn’t be a problem; the president thought that meant construction would stop. When Shamir expanded them, Bush believed he had lied. But their relationship improved when the prime minister, in response to American requests, did not retaliate against Iraqi Scud missiles fired during the Gulf war
If Netanyahu wants to be remembered as more than a do-nothing prime minister, and if Obama wants to avoid being the American president on whose watch Iran gets the bomb and the two-state solution expires, they’ll have to cooperate.