Tuesday, June 9, 2009
Netanyahu Believes Obama Wants Relations To Sour
Appeasing Arabs at expense of Israelis?
Last night I was invited into a room on Paltalk, created by Israelis, proclaiming that no other nation can dictate to Israel its policies.
The nation to which the room referred was, of course, the United States.
Many Israelis are very suspicious of President Obama. They are afraid that he is going to betray the Jewish state in favor of appeasing the Arab world.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu would have felt very comfortable in that chat room last night. Because, as the Israeli newspaper Haaretz reports today, Netanyahu is among those who fear Obama is deliberately trying to sour relations with Israel.
Obama does face a problem handed to him by the George W. Bush administration. Many in the Muslim world are distrustful of the United States because they feel Bush's policies were decidedly anti-Muslim. Obama, in his speech to the Islamic world from Cairo, has been trying to dispel that perception. He feels that, by doing so, it will be harder for Jihadist organizations to recruit. And there are some early indications that the strategy is succeeding.
But Netanyahu and other Israelis are concerned about the price their nation will have to pay in the process. Obama has a vision of peace in the Middle East. But one of the major issues he's pushing for is the dismantling of Israeli settlements and outposts in the disputed territories of the West Bank. He's not keeping this discussion a private one with Netanyahu. He's been vocal about it. Putting the prime minister in a box.
If Netanyahu removes the settlements, he will be viewed as weak in his own coalition and his government could topple. If he doesn't remove them, relations with the United States, Israel's biggest ally, could be sullied. No wonder he believes Obama is deliberately trying to to use him as a pawn to appease Arabs.
Obama is probably correct. In order for a peace process to move forward the settlements need to be removed. But there's a reason the hard line Netanyahu is prime minister. Many Israelis, including those who were so passionately vocal about this issue during last night's discourse on Paltalk, don't believe any longer in the concept of land for peace. In fact, it was almost shocking how many expressed last night that there is no chance for peace with the Palestinians. They are distrustful of both Hamas and the Palestinian Authority. They feel that both entities, ultimately, are bent on the destruction of Israel.
They've come to terms with what they believe to be their reality. Perhaps to his credit, Obama has not. He still hopes, as have most of his predecessors, that he can help broker a Middle East peace. If he's typical of other presidents who have tried, he will probably hold onto this hope until the day he leaves office.
Meanwhile, Netanyahu says he will soon announce his own, counter-proposal, for peace with the Palestinians. Perhaps that's the way to break the stalemate and get peace talks started again. But I doubt that any plan Netanyahu comes up with will include dismantling of the settlements. Which, if he's right, may, ironically, suit Obama just fine.