Latest round in the Israel-US confrontation
by MainStreet, Fri May 29, 2009 at 12:57:35 PM EDT
The last word in the controntation between Israel and the US that has been brewing for weeks was Netanyahu's: "What the hell do they want from me?".
Netanyahu's statement was reportedly said in response Hillary Clinton's repeated demand that Israel stop the settlements. Period. Earlier, Netanyahu had adamantly refused, offering instead to dismantle a few token illegal outposts, while continuing to expand large settlements under the concept of "natural growth," plans that might actually double the number of Israeli settlers in the West Bank and East Jerusalem.
Wink of the eye deception, however, is no longer acceptable in Obama's Washington and apparently, not in the US Congress.
As reported by the New Policy Forum:
Last night, shortly after U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton told journalists that the Obama administration "wants to see a stop to settlements -- not some settlements, not outposts, not natural growth exceptions," Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called a confidante. Referring to Clinton's call for a settlement freeze, Netanyahu groused, "What the hell do they want from me?" according to his associate, who added, "I gathered that he heard some bad vibes in his meetings with [U.S.] congressional delegations this week."
In the 10 days since Netanyahu and President Barack Obama held a meeting at the White House, the Obama administration has made clear in public and private meetings with Israeli officials that it intends to hold a firm line on Obama's call to stop Israeli settlements. According to many observers in Washington and Israel, the Israeli prime minister, looking for loopholes and hidden agreements that have often existed in the past with Washington, has been flummoxed by an unusually united line that has come not just from Obama's White House and the secretary of state, but also from pro-Israel congressmen and women who have come through Israel for meetings with him over Memorial Day recess.
To Netanyahu's dismay, Obama doesn't appear to have a hidden policy. It is what he said it was.
MJ Rosenberg, Washington Director of the Israel Policy Forum, this morning advised that the Washington of old is,
Yedioth Achronoth correspondent, Sima Kadmon, reported yesterday that Netanyahu and his aides are rattled by this unexpected American grit.
"Netanyahu arrived only to discover that the United States is no longer the same United States and that the Congress is no longer the same Congress. That he has no other option when confronting Obama and that he has no excuses to give. If Sharon or Olmert could tell Bush that doing one thing or another would cause their governments to fall, and Bush took this seriously-this is no longer the case. Obama will not shed any tears if Netanyahu tells him that his government will fall as a result of removing outposts. He won't be telling him: 'oy, just don't leave me.' What's the worst that can happen? Livni will become prime minister? That certainly doesn't worry Obama."
Adding to Netanyahu's problems is the lack of support of the status quo lobby for his hard-line position on settlements. No major Jewish organization, with the exception of the tiny far right Zionist Organization of America (allied with the settlers), is backing his position. AIPAC, which has not spoken out one way or the other, has never explicitly supported the settlement enterprise. The last thing it wants is to do battle with a popular American president over an issue it has never cared about.
In short, this is a battle that Obama can win, and it is one that is worth fighting. "Stopping the settlements" (in Secretary Clinton's words) would both begin a process toward ending the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and would show the world that the United States is actually trying to play the role of honest broker-and not Israel's lawyer-for the first time in many years.
Finally, we can understand the meaning of Obama's introduction of Netanyahu at their first press conference ten days ago as..."young and experienced." This time around, we are the superpower, not you, if one recalls Bill Clinton's reflection on his experience with Netanyahu over a decade ago.