President Obama waves as he prepares to depart the White House – he is heading to Chicago where he will attend a campaign event for Gov. Pat Quinn, D-Il, and deliver remarks on the economy at Northwestern University
President Barack Obama meets with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, March, 5, in the Oval Office
David Firestone (NYT): Iran represents one of the world’s most grave foreign policy challenges, but don’t look for much gravity in the speeches to American Israel Public Affairs Committee this week by the top three Republican presidential candidates. There will be plenty of empty fist-shaking and ridicule of President Obama at the pro-Israel lobbying group, but not a single new thought for preventing Iran from developing a nuclear weapon.
…. Romney, Santorum and Gingrich have consistently been at their most dangerous when discussing the Middle East, combining a simplistic bellicosity toward the Islamic world with a reflexive agreement with the Israeli right….
….. On Sunday, in his speech to Aipac, Mr. Obama made clear that he will not accept a nuclear-armed Iran, and is prepared to use military force to prevent it if necessary. But he said he prefers the route of diplomacy, and regrets the “loose talk of war”…
….Mr. Santorum bizarrely suggested recently that the Obama administration is helping Iran develop a weapon by leaking Israel’s plans for an attack … The administration would rather let Iran go nuclear than give up its oil, he charged.
That’s too ridiculous to even bother refuting, but it’s hardly out of line with a Republican field that has responded to the globe’s most serious issues with precarious posturing.
ThinkProgress: Israeli opposition leader Tzipi Livni, during a Knesset debate ahead of the Palestinian statehood bid at the UN, characterized Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s coalition as engaging in “diplomatic stupidity” and warned that government’s position is putting “the United States into a corner.” She placed blame for the current predicament at Netanyahu’s feet, observing:
“The United States is making sure it won’t be singled out but how are we helping ourselves? We now need to initiate the political process. (Prime Minster Benjamin) Netanyahu tried to prevent this and now the Palestinians are at the United Nations.”
Livni emphasized the importance of Israel’s friendship with the U.S., especially in light of the growing regional isolation faced by the Jewish state. She warned:
“Next to all these enemies Israel has friends, and at the top of that list is United States, who is willing to guarantee Israel’s security. They don’t understand Israel’s policy, they don’t understand why the stubbornness over settlements, they don’t believe the prime minister of Israel when he says ‘two states’ but doesn’t do anything about it. And this saddens me because I am a citizen of the state.”
While blasting Netanyahu’s policies and his intransigence in the peace process, she urged him to reverse course and save an increasingly untenable Israeli position…..
John Heilemann (NY Mag): Barack Obama is the best thing Israel has going for it right now. Why is that so difficult for Netanyahu and his American Jewish allies to understand?
The last time Barack Obama and Benjamin Netanyahu shared each other’s company, you could say that the encounter did not go well – if by “not well” you mean abysmally. This was on May 20, the day after Obama gave his big speech on the Arab Spring …. Obama was furious with Netanyahu, who in choosing to ignore the crucial qualifier about land swaps had twisted Obama’s words beyond recognition – the kind of mendacious misinterpretation that makes the presidential mental.
The senior most members of Obama’s team felt much the same. Joe Biden, Hillary Clinton, Bob Gates, Bill Daley, the former Mideast-peace envoy George Mitchell: All were apoplectic with the prime minister, whose behavior over the past two years had already tried their patience…..
…. The premise of Obama’s approach to Israel all along has been straightforward. Given the demographic realities it faces …. our ally confronts a fundamental and fateful choice: It can remain democratic and lose its Jewish character; it can retain its Jewish character but become an apartheid state; or it can remain both Jewish and democratic, satisfy Palestinian national aspirations, facilitate efforts to contain Iran, alleviate the international opprobrium directed at it, and reap the enormous security and economic benefits of ending the conflict by taking up the task of the creation of a viable Palestinian state – one based, yes, on the 1967 lines with mutually agreed upon land swaps, with East Jerusalem as the Palestinian capital.
The irony is that Obama – along with countless Israelis, members of the Jewish diaspora, and friends of Israel around the world – seems to grasp these realities and this choice more readily than Netanyahu does. “The first Jewish president?” Maybe not. But certainly a president every bit as pro-Israel as the country’s own prime minister – and, if you look from the proper angle, maybe even more so.
Aimée Kligman (Examiner): … a march organized by various peace groups and political parties of Israel…delivered 25,000 people in the streets of Central Tel Aviv in support of the establishment of a Palestinian state based on 1967 borders.
….The posters are worth a thousand words, especially the one showing President Barack Obama, and the words yes we ‘ken’ (ken means yes in Hebrew). Other posters in red show the year 1967 with either Hebrew or Arabic text under the year. Today, the pro-peace lobby group JStreet is jumping on the bandwagon, and offering a free Obama poster in the original English/Hebrew to all who support the US president’s vision of a two-state solution.
This show of support in Israel doesn’t come a moment too soon. Especially as critics and detractors of the President’s message distort the facts, in what they imagine to be unconditional support of Prime Minister’s Netanyahu and his position.
…An 80-year old woman, Professor Yenina Altman, came from Haifa to attend the rally. She said: ‘It’s important for me to express the desire to see the Palestinians independent. I came from Poland after my entire family perished. I had been in a ghetto and a concentration camp. I would like to have my country show respect for the Palestinians and recognize their right to an independent state just as we desired for ourselves.’
The Jewish Daily Forward: … President Obama’s May 19 speech outlining his administration’s response to the so-called Arab Spring contained a ringing defense of Israel’s continued security and a stinging rebuke to Hamas. Obama plainly defended Israel’s right to exist and its place in the community of nations…
But the president also stated out loud what every president over the last two decades and many Israeli officials have acknowledged: The borders of Israel before the 1967 war, before the 43-year occupation, are the starting point for negotiations with Palestinians. The starting point, not the conclusion, as Obama also called for “land swaps” that, again, have long been an accepted mechanism for dividing the contested land….
….. the stern conditions for peace talks that Netanyahu enunciated before Congress were framed in such a way to leave little diplomatic space for the Palestinians. His narrative placed all the blame on them for the current impasse … while he promised he’d make “far reaching compromises” in the interests of peace, it’s unclear what that could mean when so much is off the table.
…. Netanyahu’s defiant stance puts American Jews in a heart-wrenching conundrum. We can choose to support his view of the world, in which an aggrieved Israel bears no responsibility for the occupation and for the impasse in negotiations – and many American Jews will… Most American Jews don’t want further procrastination, but an end to the conflict, which has stained Israel’s moral standing in the way that occupation and continued violence inevitably do…
…here’s what Obama does embody in his insistence on a peace process: The quintessential idealism and optimism that undergirds the American personality, the “yes we can” feeling that is right now at odds with Israeli fatalism, along with a pragmatic approach to foreign policy that sees a much larger picture than Netanyahu does….
We want the Palestinian leadership to take bold steps to recognize a new reality and the need for compromise. Why shouldn’t we expect the same of Israeli leadership?
Most of us hoped that Netanyahu would have given a courageous, creative speech to move the process forward, safeguarding Israel’s security as he must, but also recognizing the cogent, entirely reasonable requests from the President of the United States.
You are making us choose, Mr. Prime Minister. Please don’t.