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.
Ynetnews: US President Barack Obama continues to be popular among American Jews – in fact 15% more popular than Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, according to a poll conducted by Israeli lobby J-Street….
According to the poll, Obama managed to maintain his popularity among 59% of American Jews …. In contrast, only 44% of American Jews continued to pledge their support to Netanyahu….
Pollster Jim Gerstein told Ynet the survey results prove that whoever thinks Jewish support of the American president has been declining is “detached from reality.”
….Obama’s approval among his Jewish constituencies continues to be higher by 15% than that of the general public. The pollster added that Israel’s declaration of construction in Jerusalem annoyed not only Obama but also American Jews, who thought Israel’s behavior was inadequate based on its close relations with the US…..
AFP: The majority of Israelis believe their prime minister should have supported US President Barack Obama’s outline for new peace talks with the Palestinians, according to a poll published Wednesday.
The survey, published in the Maariv newspaper, found 10 percent of Israelis thought Benjamin Netanyahu should have “declared his support for the president’s remarks with no reservations.”
Another 46.8 percent said the Israeli leader should have expressed support “but with reservations,” while 36.7 percent said Netanyahu should have declared his opposition to Obama’s principles for the peace process…..
Jerusalem Post: Opposition leader Tzipi Livni slammed Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu on Friday for “harming the relationship” between Israel and the US.
“Netanyahu spoke about consensus,” Livni said, “and if there is a consensus in Israel, it’s that the relationship with the US is essential to Israel, and a prime minister that harms the relationship with the US over something unsubstantial is harming Israel’s security and deterrence.” Livni added that such a prime minister should resign. “I am saying this loud and clear.”
“Israel’s deterrence and legitimacy in the world is directly connected to our relationship with the greatest power in the world, the US,” Livni said.
She explained that Obama’s speech on Thursday “is not reason enough” to challenge the US, and said that Netanyahu’s statements were political and meant to maintain the coalition.
“An American president that supports the two-state vision is representing Israeli interests and is not anti-Israel,” Livni said. The only way to stop the Palestinians from unilaterally declaring statehood, Livni explained, is to have the US “convince states that plan to support the decision not to do so, but to support negotiations.”
President Obama will deliver his AIPAC address at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center, Sunday, at 10:35 a.m
Andrew Sullivan: …I saw nothing that new in the president’s speech on Israel-Palestine – just a minimal request directed to both sides based on a settlement everyone knows is the only equitable one, and that has been the cornerstone of US policy for a very long time. But the rank hysteria that immediately sprang from Jerusalem and quickly enveloped the far-right-wing-media-industrial-complex, revealed far more plainly than before that the gulf between Israel and the rest of the world is simply vast.
It appears that the maximum Netanyahu would allow in any two state solution are some kind of autonomous bantustans in the West Bank, surrounded by Israeli military and security forces and buffered at the Jordan border with IDF troops … If this is Israel’s bottom line, there will be no peace, and there should be no peace, because of the rank injustice of this non-solution.
….Netanyahu is no longer on the Israeli fringe … there is very solid and wide support in Israel for such a maximalist position, and in America, this is what most of the American Jewish Establishment has fatefully backed.
What strikes me is the visceral and emotional power behind the AIPAC line, displayed in Netanyahu’s contemptuous, disgraceful, desperate public dressing down of the American president in the White House.
Just observe the tone of Netanyahu’s voice, and the Cheney-like determination to impose his will on the world, regardless of anyone else, and certainly without the slightest concern for his ally’s wider foreign policy and security needs … Has Netanyahu ever asked, one wonders, what he could actually do to help Obama, president of Israel’s oldest, and strongest ally in an era of enormous social and political change?
…Netanyahu’s current position means that the US is supposed to sacrifice its broader goals of reconciliation with an emergent democratic Arab world ..he wants the US to clasp itself to Israel’s total distrust of every Arab state and population in an era where it is vital for the US to do exactly the opposite.
And it is absurd not to notice Obama’s even-handedness. It’s clear he won’t legitimize Hamas until Hamas legitimizes itself by acknowledging Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish state and dropping its virulent, violent anti-Semitism … Like any US president, he is committed to Israel’s security and is, indeed, vital to it. But all he asks is a good faith attempt by the Israelis to acknowledge that their future state has to be based on the 1967 lines with landswaps. Indefensible? Says who?….
And no one seems to appreciate Obama’s political courage in all this. Obama seems to understand that an equitable two-state solution is a key crucible for the change he is seeking with respect to the Muslim world … With each month in office, he has pursued this, through humiliation after humiliation from the Israelis, who are openly trying to lobby the press, media, political parties and Congress to isolate this president and destroy his vision for peace and the historic and generational potential his presidency still promises. To achieve this, he has to face down the apocalyptic Christianist right, the entire FNC-RNC media machine, a sizable chunk of his party’s financial base, and the US Congress. And yet on he pushes – civilly, rationally, patiently.
This really is a titanic struggle between fear and hope…..
Michael Tomasky (The Daily Beast): Netanyahu’s rejection of Obama’s Mideast speech underestimated the president’s strength – and could hasten the Israeli leader’s political demise…
Bibi Netanyahu could have reacted any number of ways to Barack Obama’s mention of the “1967 lines with mutually agreed swaps.” Let’s say, actually, four ways: embrace, circumspection, suspicion, tantrum. That he chose the last tells us a lot about the man’s shortcomings and (lack of) political instincts. All political is local, and Netanyahu undoubtedly scored points with his Likud base back home. But he has a base here in America too, and I think he misjudged that base badly.
…His behavior these last 48 hours has verged on, if not been, petulant. A foreign leader (no less one of a state whose existence depends on the United States) isn’t supposed to talk like that to a president. Add to the bargain: Obama’s a stronger president now on foreign affairs than he was in 2009, partly because of the bin Laden coup and partly because the speech was generally well received across the American political spectrum.
The criticisms of Obama on the borders statement have been entirely partisan, led by Republican presidential candidates. That has had the effect of cheapening the criticism of Obama and making it more dismissible: Do Americans, and Israelis and Palestinians, really care what Tim Pawlenty thinks about the situation?
The Anti-Defamation League’s Abe Foxman, never shy about criticizing the administration on these matters …. judged the speech a defense of Israel …. This may be a sign that the usual cordon won’t hold around Bibi this time.
…things have changed. Two years ago, politically speaking, time was on Netanyahu’s side. Now it’s against him. Having thrown this tantrum, it seems unlikely that he can come back in two weeks, or two months, or a year, and say gee, the ’67 borders with swaps is actually a good idea after all. It seems like the peace process will have to wait for a new prime minister. And he may have hastened that day, too.