Posts Tagged ‘Netanyahu’


Monday, May 18th, 2009

Bibi Netanyahu is in Washington today to talk to President Obama. Last week, I was very concerned about some tough talk that had come out of the Obama administration. This week the concern seems to have been premature. Obama has been cautious in action, much more cautious than in talk. Theodore Roosevelt famously proposed to “Speak softly and carry a big stick.” Obama appears to believe the opposite.

Obama is much stronger politically, but he has consistently acted with caution, particularly in the foreign policy arena. Much of his foreign policy follows from the Bush administration. He has made no major breaks in foreign policy beyond rhetoric; his policies on Iraq, Afghanistan, Iran, Russia and Europe are essentially extensions of pre-existing policy. Obama faces major economic problems in the United States and clearly is not looking for major changes in foreign policy. He understands how quickly public sentiment can change, and he does not plan to take risks he does not have to take right now.

I don’t know if the serious people Obama has to deal with across the world will grow tired of his lies but, for now, they are better than his proposals. The realities of the situation make his previous assertions about a two-state solution sound foolish.

The foundation of the Israeli-Palestinian peace process for years has been the assumption that there would be a two-state solution. Such a solution has not materialized for a host of reasons. First, at present there are two Palestinian entities, Gaza and the West Bank, which are hostile to each other. Second, the geography and economy of any Palestinian state would be so reliant on Israel that independence would be meaningless; geography simply makes the two-state proposal almost impossible to implement. Third, no Palestinian government would have the power to guarantee that rogue elements would not launch rockets at Israel, potentially striking at the Tel Aviv-Jerusalem corridor, Israel’s heartland. And fourth, neither the Palestinians nor the Israelis have the domestic political coherence to allow any negotiator to operate from a position of confidence. Whatever the two sides negotiated would be revised and destroyed by their political opponents, and even their friends.

So, the two-state solution is a delusion. What comes next ?

Overall, Israel is a conservative power. In terms of nation-states, it does not want upheaval; it is quite content with the current regimes in the Arab world. But Netanyahu would love to see an international conference with the Arab states roundly condemning Israel publicly. This would shore up the justification for Netanyahu’s policies domestically while simultaneously creating a framework for reshaping world opinion by showing an Israel isolated among hostile states.

Obama is likely hearing through diplomatic channels from the Arab countries that they do not want to participate directly in the Palestinian peace process. And the United States really does not want them there, either. The peace process normally ends in a train wreck anyway, and Obama is in no hurry to see the wreckage.

So, once again, it is all theater and talk, no substance. Since most of Obama’s policies fit that description, it should be no problem.