By Ben Cohen
I'm always skeptical when the MSM uses shock titles like 'Obama Gets Tough on Israel'. It's basically code for saying 'Obama isn't an insane neo hawk' rather than anything that would constitute a real shift in U.S policy. But there is cause to be hopeful that the U.S will use its power to stop the psychotic Israeli leader from destroying what is left of the Palestinian people.
From what I can gather about the recent meeting between Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, it was mostly a sniffing out session where both men tried to figure out what kind of leverage they could potentially wield over the other. The camera session comments were carefully scripted and delivered (video here), and we can only really deduce the following: That Obama wants Israel to stop building settlements in the West Bank, and Netanyahu wants permission to attack Iran should he choose. They appeared friendly, and spoke often about the close relationship between the U.S and Israel, but disagreed on the best way to ensure Israel's security. Obama believes the creation of a Palestinian state will help rally Arab opinion around the West, and Netanyahu believes direct aggression against Iran will ensure Israeli security. Said Obama:
If there is a linkage
between Iran and the Israeli-Palestinian peace process, I personally
believe it actually runs the other way. To the extent that we can make
peace with the Palestinians -- between the Palestinians and the
Israelis, then I actually think it strengthens our hand in the
international community in dealing with the potential Iranian threat.
It is certainly clear to anyone who knows where Obama comes from ideologically that he knows Israel's current policy towards the Palestinians is unsustainable and immensely damaging to the Middle East. The election of Benjamin Netanyahu was a serious blow to the peace process as the ultra Right wing politician has consistently opposed the creation of a Palestinian state. However, while Obama deftly moved to the Right on the issue in order to get elected, there are signs that he won't accept the status quo, and will make serious moves towards a serious peace proposal despite Netanyahu's opposition.
Obama is using heavyweight foreign policy experts to lead negotiations (like George Mitchell), who are not ideologically driven. His language, while crafted to assure Israel, is quietly critical and aimed at least partially at the Palestinians to inspire confidence that their pleas are not going unheard. The line about the creation of a Palestinian state strengthening their hand against Iran is classic Obama - he gently uses Netanyahu's logic against him without causing offense, but iterating a totally different vision.
The two will no doubt clash in the near future, as some semblance peace in the Middle East is vital to Obama's Presidential legacy. A former soldier, Netanyahu has a dangerous mixture of charm and brutality, making him a very formidable and devious foe. He will do everything in his power to outmaneuver Obama to get what he wants, and the American President will have to be at his best to handle him effectively. This will be his biggest foreign policy test, and it will define his Presidency. It's too early to tell how it will play out, but there is no reason to be pessimistic.
(Photo by Floyd Brown)