Is Obama Turning into a Bust?

Middle Eastern disappointments are mounting and some of the Arab hopes in Obama have begun to fade. The Syrians are saying that in three months Obama’s policies in the Middle East should be clear. By that time elections in Lebanon and Iran will be over and the dust will have had time to settle. If US policy changes have not taken shape by then, they probably will not take shape at all.  A number of Syrian officials got mud on their faces with the sanctions fiasco. They had supported the notion that Washington had indeed turned a new page.

Palestinian officials said they were disappointed that Monday’s round of U.S.-Israeli talks in Washington produced no clear progress on the removal of Jewish settlements in the occupied West Bank or other issues they feel are crucial to rejuvenating stalled peace negotiations.

Israel stood firm against demands from Barack Obama on Monday to cease the construction of Jewish settlements and embrace the “two-state solution” to achieving peace in the Middle East.

MJ Rosenberg in the PULSE, (via FLC) explains that Prime Minister Netanyahu is up to the same thing that Yitzhak Shamir was in 1992 when he had just been defeated by Yitzhak Rabin and announced that he wanted to drag out peace talks with the Palestinians for a decade while vastly increasing the number of Jewish settlers in Israeli-occupied territories.

Mr. Shamir reportedly said, ‘ I would have conducted negotiations on autonomy for 10 years and in the meantime we would have reached half a million people” in the West Bank.’ ” Shamir, of course, is one of Netanyahu’s heroes and mentors. Sixteen years later, he has the same strategy Shamir did. He says he will negotiate but he will not commit himself to Palestinian statehood.

Syria-US Thaw Awaits Concrete Steps
By Edward Yeranian, Cairo, 18 May 2009

Relations between the United States and Syria remain rocky after a series of recent developments, including the arrest of a Syrian man involved in terrorist activities in northern Iraq, coupled with U.S. accusations that Damascus is still not controlling its border.

U.S. President Barack Obama has been carefully seeking to improve ties with Syria, after several years of ostracizing Damascus by the Bush Administration and the world community.

Senator George Mitchell applied for Syrian visa, he may visit Damascus

Word that U.S. peace envoy George Mitchell may be visiting Damascus soon is raising speculation of a new U.S. push to jumpstart stalled peace talks on the Israeli-Syrian track.

Jordan’s King Abdullah indicated several days ago the United States was “preparing a new Middle East peace initiative.”

Syrian Ambassador to Washington Imad Mustapha revealed, last week, that Senator Mitchell had applied for a Syrian visa, although State Department spokesman Robert Wood indicated that such a trip is not necessarily imminent.

Acting Assistant Secretary of State Jeffrey Feltman and National Security Council Senior Director Daniel Shapiro visited Damascus earlier this month. It was their second visit to the Syrian capital since President Obama vowed in January to engage with all Middle Eastern countries, including longtime foes Syria and Iran…

Professor Joshua Landis of Oklahoma University’s Center for Middle East Studies, who authors the popular Syria Comment website, thinks the United States and Syria are frustrated:

“They have hit a wall. The Syrians were very upset about the way sanctions were renewed by the Obama Administration,” he said. “I think that they understood that there was going to be a renewal of sanctions, because talks have only just begun. But there was no change in language, and no softening of tone, and they were upset. Now, the Americans obviously want to see a number of things. They want to see good-faith measures being taken by Syria and they want action on this Iraqi border.”

Syria’s main issue: the return of the Israeli-occupied Golan Height

“Syria wants linkage: they want America to send back an ambassador, they want peace talks to go forward,” added Landis. “So how do you proceed? That is the question. You know, Syria, of course, is very worried that America is going to ask it to take a lot of steps and it is not going to get very much in return. America is saying: “Trust us, you do these things and Obama is going to change the Middle East.”

Paul Salem, who heads the Beirut-based Carnegie Center for Peace in the Middle East, says Syria’s main ambition is the return of the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights:

“The main issue for Syria has been restarting the peace track with Israel to regain the Golan Heights,” he said. “What has clouded that process is statements by the Israeli government that they do not seem interested in restarting the peace track with Syria. But if there is no life on the Israeli side of the Israeli-Syrian track, then I think Syria will probably reconsider its overtures and the United States and Syria would have to figure out how to manage their relations, while Israel continues to occupy the Golan Heights.”

Salem thinks that the United States is cautiously “biding its time and not rushing” to resume ties with Syria:

“The United States is not completely positive in its orientation towards Syria. It has a lot of misgivings and a lot of things it is not happy with,” said Salem. “But I think President Obama understands that in order to make a real change in terms of Syria’s regional policy will require some concessions from Israel.”

Salem stresses that Syria’s positions are connected to the issue of the Golan Heights. Everything else depends on it, he says, and ” it is hard to get something for nothing.”

The following article by David Rose is excellent. The same deals as were struck with the Iraqi Sunnis could have been struck with Syria, which should have been part of a larger “awakening” in the region. The US Defense Department’s refusal to work with Syria was ideological. Even after the Bush administration had accepted the necessity of working with the Sunni tribes in al-Anbar province and elsewhere, it could not bring itself to do the same with Syria.

Heads in the Sand
By David Rose in Vanity Fair. May 12, 2009

The so-called Sunni Awakening, in which American forces formed tactical alliances with local sheikhs, has been credited with dampening the insurgency in much of Iraq. But new evidence suggests that the Sunnis were offering the same deal as early as 2004—one that was eagerly embraced by commanders on the ground, but rejected out of hand at the highest levels of the Bush administration…..

Peres: If Assad wants Israel-Syria peace, why is he shy?
By Avi Issacharoff, Haaretz Correspondent and The Associated Press

President Shimon Peres on Sunday urged his Syrian counterpart, Bashar Assad, to agree to engage in direct peace negotiations with Israel.

“The Syrians should be ready to talk. If President Assad wants peace, why is he shy?” Peres said after participating in an international economic meeting sponsored by the Geneva-based World Economic Forum.

“We suggested many times direct talks,” he added. “[Assad] thinks direct talks is a prize to Israel. It’s not a prize. It’s normal.”…

Just a few days ago, Netanyahu said he would not return the Golan.

Peres said a gesture by Syria would be more important than all the negotiations. “Change the air,” he said. “There stands the president and he said he doesn’t want to meet. Why? You want us to give back something, but he doesn’t suggest to give us back anything.”

Please, with might
By Gideon Levy
17/05/2009, Haaretz Commentary

……Now is the time for the occupier to end the occupation, immediately, unconditionally, moments before the two-state solution draws its final breath and passes beyond the realm of possibility, if it hasn’t already. Which is why Obama should be standing with a stopwatch, too: Time is running out.

There’s one message that should emerge from Washington: Israel is beginning to act, not to talk but to act, to end the occupation. Freeze the settlements without any lies, dismantle the outposts without tricks, give Palestinians freedoms without feints, and establish a rigid agenda to dismantle the entire settler enterprise. Anything less will be seen as failure, any move less daring will ensure a deadlock that will bring more bloodshed and the eventual establishment of a permanent binational apartheid state.

Does it sound big and pretentious? Well, there’s a big, pretentious president now sitting in Washington. The Arabs have already learned that Israel understands force and force alone; all its limited concessions were carried out after bloodshed, never before. It’s time Washington learns the same lesson: Please, with might, Barack Obama, because there is no other way…

Syria upset over ‘big stick’ diplomacy
Published: May 18, 2009 at 4:04 PM

WASHINGTON, May 18 (UPI) — Damascus was deeply insulted by a Washington decision to renew economic sanctions while U.S. diplomats pursued an engagement strategy, a scholar said.

U.S. President Barack Obama renewed diplomatic sanctions against Damascus in early May for its support of militant organizations in the region and other actions, following a visit by acting U.S. Assistant Secretary for Near Eastern Affairs Jeffrey Feltman and Daniel Shapiro, U.S. National Security Council senior director.

“The national emergency with respect to Syria remains in effect because Syria continued to not meet its international obligations,” Feltman said. “We continue to have serious concerns about Syria’s actions.”

University of Oklahoma Assistant Professor Joshua Landis, author of the revered Syria Comment blog, described Syria as being “at the center” of Washington’s Middle East policy, saying it lies at the crossroads of issues pertaining to Lebanon, Iraq and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Damascus reacted with outrage to the renewed sanctions, calling Washington’s actions “foolish.” In an interview with the Council on Foreign Relations, Landis said the sanctions’ renewal ran counter to Syrian hopes for engagement.

“They want the United States to stop treating Syria like a rogue state and start showing it respect,” he said. “Give us some hope; don’t just use the big stick.”

Comments (20)


1. Alex said:

I like the way the Onion reads Mr. Netanyahu.

Everything else is a waste of time

Israeli PM Debuts New Road Map For Continued Strife

http://www.theonion.com/content/news_briefs/israeli_pm_debuts_new_road

JERUSALEM—In a historic speech before the U.N. Tuesday, newly elected Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu unveiled a comprehensive plan to extend political discord and senseless violence in the Middle East through the next 25 years. Key elements of the 60-page road map include a symbolic and ultimately fruitless 2010 regional summit, a tenuous cease-fire that will be violently broken mid-autumn by an as-yet-unnamed splinter group, a series of hope-shattering assassinations, and two untimely comas. “I intend to lead the nation of Israel out of this senseless, bitter fighting and chaos, and into a new era of organized, carefully thought-out fighting and chaos,” Netanyahu said. “If Israelis and Arabs work together, we can put off lasting peace indefinitely.” Sources close to the prime minister indicated that Netanyahu would be willing to consider Palestinian statehood if such a move led to a full-scale Mideast war.

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May 19th, 2009, 6:11 pm

 

2. Atassi said:

Alex,
All good !

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May 19th, 2009, 8:08 pm

 

3. Off the Wall said:

Alex
First, As you can see, it is now working again. Thank you very much.

I love the Onion, their irreverence is outstanding and very revealing. The sad thing is that most of the times, the fake news they report are more accurate portrayals of reality 🙂 especially in this case.

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May 19th, 2009, 8:15 pm

 

4. norman said:

Alex,

I was moving around very restless , did not know why , It was because i am an addict to Syria comment and could not post a comment,

Thank you , Thank you , Thank you,

I feel better.

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May 19th, 2009, 8:51 pm

 

5. Alex said:

You are welcome … I basically clicked on one check box : )

OTW … amazing how the short “news” story in the Onion sums it up.

Shamir went to Madrid conference with the intention of sabotaging it (his admission) and the peace process that will follow, yet a million journalists decided to take the thing seriously and to report it and to write opinion pieces about every hope or setback …

Netanyahu is Shamir.

And when it comes to Middle East politics there is near zero learning in America.

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May 19th, 2009, 9:10 pm

 

6. Off the Wall said:

Alex

Agree that Natanyahu is Shamir, but he is more media savvy and much slicker especially in talking the US media.

I do not think that learning in the US is zero at this stage. Many indicators lead to a more informed, albeit cautious and painfully slow change towards more moderate position and towards impatience with Israeli right wingers and their lackies in the US.

After reading Elle’s comment on the sanctions, i take similar position on the sanction as being a combination of smart and dumb, with the dumb ones having more bad and stupid impacts.

Obama has never been a revolutionist; he has always been more of a left-centrist man, but with strong convictions but stronger bent towards pragmatism and towards the art of the possible. In addition, AIPAC’s penetration of both legislative and executive powers, and the presence of their beneficiaries in the bureaucratic corps, which provide continuity between administrations, is very significant. While learning is happening, these people are doing whatever they can to reverse the process but I think that their power is beginning to slowely erode, and Natanyahu and AIPAC should be very careful not to try to pit the congress against the president by attempting to extract a legislation that enshrines isral’s right wing position as a US law. Such will leave Obama as well as the nation with a very bitter pill, which will erode the goodwill many Americans on the left feel about Israel. Granted, Barak Obama is not a vengeful person, for he seems to see in vengeance a waste of energy and opportunity, but he is an expert of overcoming adversities and of re-arranging conditions so that the mistakes are not allowed to be repeated.

For Obama to emphasize that the settlements are the major obstacle to peace is a major break with the neocons policies despite of the continuing presence of many of them in the state department. Like Norman, I want to be optimistic about Obama, and I have reasons to be optimistic and pessimistic. Even his diplomatically, and rather carefully worded praise of Natanyahu was more of a challenge than praise. Much unlike his predecessor, who called Sharon a man of peace.

Absent an outright provocation against Syria, I will be taking a waite and see attitude about the new administration for abit longer. I know time is running out on the two states solution if it has not already done so. But i think for now, Natanyahu knows well that there is really a new boss in the white house, a boss that one must be very carful not to antagonize. A boss much smarter than him or than any other smug right winger and racist in his racist government.

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May 19th, 2009, 10:25 pm

 

7. Alex said:

I agree OTW … There is some learning process, but it is more like … two step back and one step forward.

For example, now we are supposed to be delighted because President Obama’s people are not sounding as stupid and aggressive as President Bush

But we already had the Bill Clinton administration which was more constructive than the Obama administration (so far) in the 90’s

So we are not up to the learning level that existed in the US in the 90’s … last century.

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May 19th, 2009, 11:13 pm

 

8. EHSANI2 said:

The Arab states have fallen in the trap of placing Iran at the top of their strategic concerns. This is foolish. Israel has used this Arab states paranoia to her full advantage. The country’s Prime minister seems to waste no time reminding everyone that it is not only Israel that is worried about Iran but it is all the Arab states as well. The most strategic concern in the region is Israel. It is not Iran. Israel is the one who sits on the nuclear weapons. Israel is the one who continues to build settlements on occupied land. The Arab states are too stupid to realize that they are being used in a classic divide and conquer tactic by Israel.

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May 19th, 2009, 11:58 pm

 

9. Alex said:

Ehsani,

“the Arab states” is Moubarak and King Abdallah and King Abdullah … they are not exactly concerned with the Palestinian cause.

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May 20th, 2009, 12:26 am

 

10. Alex said:

from the May 17, 2009 edition –

http://www.csmonitor.com/2009/0519/p10s01-wome.html

Syria moves from pariah to power broker
Region sees it as a bulwark against Iran; US sees it as key to any peace deal.

By Julien barnes-Dacey | Correspondent of The Christian Science Monitor

Damascus, Syria

Just a year ago, Syria was a Middle Eastern pariah, shunned and attacked by major Arab powers for its interventions and alliances across the region.

Yet in the wake of Israel’s assault on Gaza and its new right-wing government – as well as divisions among Palestinian factions at reconciliation talks in Cairo and upcoming elections in Lebanon – the country is enjoying renewed influence as the region grapples with a crisis of identity and increasing Iranian influence.

Today, Syria is courted by once-hostile Arab powers that see it as a bulwark against Iran. Its regional allies are assertive and it is increasingly viewed as the standard-bearer of Arab values.

“We’re happy because everyone is talking to us,” says Suleiman Haddad, chairman of the Syrian parliament’s Foreign Affairs Committee, voicing a widespread confidence. “Everyone in the region is now convinced that Syria never changed its position and was always in the right.”

In 2008, as Syria prepared to host the Arab League summit for the first time, regional relations were in meltdown. The two major powers, Egypt and Saudi Arabia, boycotted the summit, accusing Syria of obstructing regional peace, meddling in Lebanon, and cozying up to radical forces including Iran, Lebanon’s Hezbollah, and the Palestinian group Hamas.

But the tables have turned. “Syria gambled on very powerful factors and it appears that those factors succeeded,” said Samir Taqi, head of the Orient Center for International Studies in Damascus, pointing to a realignment away from the so-called moderate Egyptian and Saudi states. Mr. Taqi says these two powers lost regional credibility as a result of their alignment with the Bush administration.

Syria, which projected itself as the leader of a “resistance axis,” says its allies are in the ascendant. This lets it “project its power beyond its borders and to punch above its weight,” says Andrew Tab­ler, at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy.

Iran is a key source of leverage, as its influence in Iraq and support of Hezbollah and Hamas raise concerns in the moderate states.

A summit a­­mong Egyptian, Ku­­waiti, Syrian, and Saudi leaders in Riyadh in March was widely interpreted as an attempt to woo Syria away from its close relationship with Iran. Yet Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was in Damascus May 4 reaffirming his country’s strong ties with Syria.

“The rise of Iranian power is good for Syria,” says Joshua Landis, a Syria expert at the University of Oklahoma. He credits that rise for new attempts at dialogue with Syria by regional and Western powers.

Meanwhile, Syria’s influence in Leb­a­non has reemerged. Following its troops’ humiliating withdrawal in 2005, Syria’s hold over Lebanon appeared over. But after the May 2008 takeover of Beirut by Hezbollah’s militia, pro-Syrian forces received veto power in a unity government. June’s parliamentary elections are expected to cement this “pax Syriana.” “The forthcoming Parliament will be much friendlier to Syria than the current one is, representing a marked return of Damascus’s hegemony,” recently wrote Lebanese journalist Michael Young, a longtime opponent of Syrian influence.

Moreover, fears that Syria would be implicated in the 2005 assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri have abated following April’s release of four pro-Syrian generals held in connection with the murder.

Renewed opposition to Israel has strengthened popular Arab support for Syria’s policies. At March’s Arab summit in Qatar, President Bashar al-Assad declared the death of the Saudi-led Arab Peace Initiative, which would recognize Israel in return for Israel’s withdrawal from occupied territories. Syria also reaffirmed its support of Hamas, whose political head, Khaled Mashaal, is based in Damascus and met with Iran’s Mr. Ahmadinejad during his visit.

“Syria is in a leading [regional] position because it has an alternative to present Arab politics [which are] based on a fantasy called the Arab Peace Initiative,” says Issam Naaman, a former Lebanese official. “Syria’s alternative is resistance.”

Despite this, President Assad has said that he wants good relations with all his neighbors, including a fair peace with Israel. “Syria is ready to play an important mediation role in the solution of regional problems,” says Umran Zaaby, a Syrian analyst with close government ties. Indeed, Syria’s ambassador to the United States claimed in April that the US had asked Syria to push Hamas to join a Palestinian unity government.

Syria hopes to cut a deal with the US, and signals from the White House have elicited great optimism in the country. Syria says it expects the US to end its policy of isolation and drop economic sanctions in place since 2003. It has also called for greater US engagement in restraining Israel and pushing a comprehensive peace.

Yet Syria’s influence by proxy is perhaps its biggest challenge. Doubts persist about how much leverage it actually holds, especially in encouraging moderation. “Syria has been overconfident and triumphalist for the last year,” says Mr. Tabler. “Syria often talks about its ability to [influence events]. So a lot of people are saying ‘OK, show it to us.’ “

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May 20th, 2009, 12:29 am

 

11. norman said:

Ehsani.

You are right , there are many stupid Arab states , but the Arab people are smarter than their leaders and that is why they admire Iran , Assad , Hamas and Hezbollah ,

We can not and should not expect others to liberate our land and get our rights , for 40 years , israel has never left an Arab land without force and untill we move to get our rights back , the US will not do anything until we push for our rights , the world respect the people who fight for their rights,

(( Koom ya abdi , la koom maak ))

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May 20th, 2009, 1:34 am

 

12. Off the Wall said:

Ehsani
Sad isn’t it. How often do poeple vote against their own interest?. But I do not think it is stupidity that motivates the fall in this trap. I think the fallen have dug it as well.

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May 20th, 2009, 3:36 am

 

13. why-discuss said:

To compensate for the sanctions Obama had to renew under strong pressure, and for the arrogance of Natanyahu who thinks he can fool the US by playing with words, Obama should nominate an ambassador to Syria. That would be a strong message to Israel that Obama is serious about the end of the settlements, the return of the Golan and the palestinian state. It would also be a positive gesture towards Syria and Iran. Let’s see if he will make that move just after the Lebanse elections.

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May 20th, 2009, 3:45 am

 

14. Akbar Palace said:

Alex –

Sorry to bust into your “anti-Israel love-fest”, but I was wondering if you knew more about this jet-fighter sale to Syria or lack thereof:

http://www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-3718770,00.html

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May 20th, 2009, 11:28 am

 

15. norman said:

Syria is better off making nives in Syria than buying weapons from Rusia,

w w w . h a a r e t z . c o m

——————————————————————————–

Last update – 11:58 20/05/2009
Report: Russia won’t sell Syria fighter jets due to Israeli pressure
By Reuters

Russia has halted plans to sell MIG-31 fighter jets to Syria because of pressure from Israel, the Kommersant daily reported on Wednesday citing an unidentified source in Russia’s defense industry.

In 2007, Russia agreed to supply Syria with eight MiG-31 fighters, known in the West by NATO codename Foxhound, for about $400-$500 million, the paper said.

Kommersant, a commerce-oriented newspaper published in Russia, quoted an unidentified person close to Russia’s state arms exporter as saying that Moscow had halted the contract due to pressure from Israel.

The paper quoted another source in an unidentified Russian ministry as saying that the contract had been halted because Syria could not produce the money to pay for the fighters.

The MiG-31 is a supersonic, high-altitude fighter plane. It has a maximum speed of 3,000 km/hour (1,860 miles/hour) and a combat radius of 720 km (450 miles.)

Russia’s state arms exporter, Rosoboronexport, declined to comment on the report. A spokesman for the Syrian embassy in Moscow was unavailable for comment.

Russia’s defense industry, which says it is starved for investment, was rattled last year when Algeria returned 15 MiG-29SMTs to Russia, saying the aircraft contained some substandard parts.

Related articles:

Russia to supply Lebanon with 10 MiG-29 fighter jets

Russia purchased Israeli drones despite Syria, Iran objections

Syria and Russia strengthen naval cooperation

Russian embrace of Syria tightens, but for what purpose?

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/hasen/objects/pages/PrintArticleEn.jhtml?itemNo=1086875

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May 20th, 2009, 11:36 am

 

16. Akbar Palace said:

Please ignore the following link.

Thank you,

The Management

http://www.israelnationalnews.com/News/News.aspx/131456

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May 20th, 2009, 11:52 am

 

17. Shai said:

Israel ready for immediate talks with Syria without preconditions: http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/1086928.html

This is a good sign. Bibi’s popularity is not growing in Israel as a result of this statement. I don’t expect this to go far, but its effect in Israel is in its readying of our population for more to come… Alex, I know what you’re thinking. 🙂 Yossi is trying to get me to place a bet on peace with Syria before or after a comprehensive peace is reached. I’m debating the ethical aspects of such wager on a public blog…

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May 20th, 2009, 4:45 pm

 

18. Akbar Palace said:

Excitement at Ha’aretz, Inc./”Smart Power” Wins

Israel ready for immediate talks with Syria without preconditions

Shai,

Thank you for linking to the great news, and kudos to Ha’aretz for publicizing this once-in-a-lifetime statement that I’ve heard perhaps 13 times in the past from various Israeli governments.

Now if only Netanyahu would give back the Golan to the borders acceptable to President Assad, we will have a lasting peace along Israel’s Northern Border and some sort of close/warm/lukewarm/freezing cold relationship with the Syrian government*.

(*details forthcoming, possibly, depending on whether or not Syria gives up its terror-abetting foreign policy, maybe)

Save that copy of Ha’aretz for me Shai. I may want to frame it, or save it witht he other 12 copies I’ve collected over the years.

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May 20th, 2009, 7:46 pm

 

19. Off the Wall said:

AP
Consider it done, link ignored, what link? !!

Alex,

As I said, even congress is getting impatient with delays and with settlements

Netanyahu Clashed With Obama, Congress On Trip
AP/The Huffington Post
First Posted: 05-20-09 01:44 PM | Updated: 05-20-09 02:59 PM

JERUSALEM — Media focus on the idea of a two-state solution to the Israel-Palestinian conflict, favored by President Barack Obama, is “childish and stupid,” said an aide to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu Wednesday.

The aide’s statement reflected efforts by Netanyahu to deflect attention away from the issue during his just-completed trip to Washington. The Prime Minister clashed with both Obama and members of Congress in his attempts to avoid discussing the peace process in favor of Iran.

President Barack Obama made it clear that the U.S. backs creation of a Palestinian state, but Netanyahu has not endorsed the concept.

During his trip to Washington, Netanyahu constantly tried to shift emphasis from Israeli-Palestinian peacemaking toward the threat posed by Iran’s nuclear program. He and Obama publicly disagreed about the relative weight of the two issues. Netanyahu argued that reining in Iran would spur peace efforts, while Obama felt that progress toward peace between Israel and the Palestinians would undermine extremist elements, including Iran.

In a brief statement at Israel’s airport on his return, Netanyahu again began with Iran, mentioning the Palestinian issue as third on his list.

Israel’s Yedioth Achronoth reported that Netanyahu was similarly at odds with legislators.

“A senior Israeli official who was present at the meetings defined them as ‘a fight’ and ‘mutual arm-wrestling,’ with Netanyahu trying to put an emphasis on the Iranian issue, and the members of Congress insisting on returning to the issue of the settlements. The senior official emphasized that there was full coordination between President Obama and the members of the Democratic majority in Congress. Netanyahu discovered yesterday how much Congress had changed, the senior official said. In 1996, Netanyahu recruited the Republican majority that existed in Congress against Clinton, the Democratic president. Today, this is impossible.”
M.J. Rosenberg of the Israel Policy Forum wrote that it was “the first time in memory” that “an Israeli prime minister went up to the Hill only to be bombarded with criticism.”

Referring to his talks with Obama, Netanyahu said, “There was an agreement that we need to immediately begin the peace process, I said I am willing to open peace talks with the Palestinians, by the way with the Syrians as well, of course without preconditions, but I made it clear that in any peace agreement there must be a solution to Israel’s special security needs.”

He also said that Arab nations should be brought into the peacemaking process, “meaning not only does Israel need to contribute and the Palestinians contribute, but Arab states need to make concrete contributions already at the beginning of the process.”

Netanyahu did not mention talks with Syria during his appearances in Washington. Israel’s previous government held several rounds of proximity talks with Syrian officials, mediated by Turkey, but no results were disclosed.

In his airport statement, Netanyahu said he and Obama agreed that Iran must not obtain nuclear weapons, and attempts to solve the problem through negotiations could not be unlimited in time. “There was also an understanding that Israel preserves the right to defend itself,” Netanyahu said.

Israel has not taken the military option off the table and analysts say it might have the ability to strike some of Iran’s nuclear facilities.

Israel considers Iran a strategic threat because of its nuclear program, long-range missiles and references by its president to the destruction of the Jewish state.

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May 20th, 2009, 8:01 pm

 

20. Shai said:

Akbar,

It seems Bibi disagrees with you. After all, if Syria is not going to “give up its terror-abetting foreign policy”, as you called it, why is Bibi willing to waste his and Israel’s precious time? Does he not have better things to do with his time? 🙂

Or perhaps Bibi is really doing what everyone here is suggesting – buying American time? At least Shamir was honest. But with the far-fetched possibility that Bibi is not wasting our time, how do you explain his readiness to talk to Syria?

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May 20th, 2009, 8:06 pm

 

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