What follows below is an interesting article that I am going to post in full as it does not at this point appear to be available on the internet anywhere. Out of respect for Nahum Barnea and Yedioth Ahronoth, I will clip the piece and provide a link to Ynet News when this article appears on the web.
But in my estimation, this is an extremely informed analysis of the dynamics between Israel Prime Minister Netanyahu and US President Barack Obama and simply must be read and considered before Netanyahu lands in Washington. My guess is that the author has spoken directly to many of the very top tier Israeli principals. — Steve Clemons
Half a Meeting
Yedioth Ahronoth — 6 November 2009
The Prime Minister’s Bureau labored and discovered that there was one visit of a prime minister to the US–by Sharon in May 2005–in which there was no meeting between him and the president (Sharon had met with Bush in April, and the two saw no need to meet again). This precedent was meant to explain that it would no disaster if, in the course of Netanyahu’s trip to Washington next week, there would be no meeting between him and Obama. For days the White House has refused to set a date for a meeting. It was embarrassing and humiliating. Netanyahu was angry. Not mildly angry. He was incensed.
I’m guessing that in the end there will be a meeting. It will take place because not having it will depict Netanyahu as the victim and Obama as the enemy of Israel. That would damage Obama in the Jewish community, damage that he can less and less afford.
Should it take place, the meeting will not meet the role it was assigned. It will be forced, coerced. It will not give Netanyahu an opportunity to clean the slate, to turn over a new leaf, to create trust, to build intimacy. Relations are cloudy, admit sources on both sides. There is mutuality in this crisis, there is symmetry: Obama is convinced that Netanyahu stuck a knife in his back; Netanyahu is convinced that Obama is the one who stuck the knife.
Above this troubling story, which has still not turned into headlines, hovers a cloud of failure. The Obama administration failed abysmally in the strategic step it took, which was meant to turn the negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians into the engine that would bring the entire region under America’s wing, from the Mediterranean Sea to the edges of Afghanistan. His failure is liable to ultimately be our disaster. Ironically, the only ray of light at the moment is the activity relating to Iran.
Netanyahu is sure that he knows who is to blame: White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel. He heard inside information, from the White House, verified information. Emanuel drips venom. My sources may be less good, but the picture they paint is different. Netanyahu’s problem, they say, is not Emanuel. It is Obama.
Netanyahu is convinced that since the first day of his term, Emanuel has been plotting to isolate Israel from America, to shrink it in the eyes of its voters and to destroy it politically. This step failed. Support for Israel in American public opinion has only increased. It’s not Israel that is isolated in America, but rather the Palestinians. Personal admiration for him also increased. It increased in wake of his speech at the UN General Assembly. There are no other leaders in the world today that speak to Americans in their own language. They’ve known him in America for 30 years now.
Netanyahu read polls (one of them was apparently carried out by Stanley Greenberg, who was Clinton’s and Barak’s adviser). The polls showed him the degree to which his standing is strong in American public opinion. America is not Europe. In Europe, Netanyahu could be described as a peace rejectionist. Not in America. The president is very important, but so is Congress. With all due respect to the president and his aides, when the public has an opinion, public opinion decides.
From Netanyahu’s point of view, relations started off on the left foot. The emphatic demand of Obama administration to freeze construction in the settlements completely, a demand meant to hurt him, led to a confrontation. He was accused of being stubborn. He was also accused of the opposite, that he was easy to coerce. The assumption was that he would take a blow and collapse. This didn’t happen in Israel and it didn’t happen in America.
It didn’t happen because he chose a combined response. In his Bar Ilan speech, he promised to support the idea of two states. He promised to be forthcoming toward the Americans, but made it clear that he would not go all the way. He went farther than what the majority of Israelis want to go and the majority of Jews in America. He acted with integrity and transparency: every Israeli step was reported to the Americans in real time, including the secret trip to Putin.
In the meantime, the Americans have learned a few things. The Arab rulers, who were supposed to provide the quid pro quo in unfreezing relations with Israel, gave nothing. Abu Mazen changed his spots. Because of domestic political considerations, he refused to begin negotiations. The Arab rulers betrayed him. He is now threatening to resign.
An argument waged in the White House. According to the information that reached Netanyahu, Hillary Clinton and Mitchell and others explained to the president that he had to rely on Netanyahu. Not out of love: out of recognizing reality. A parallelogram of forces was created: they on one side, Emanuel on the other. Netanyahu believes that Obama is pragmatic. After consideration, he will go with public opinion.
I’m not certain that Netanyahu realizes to what degree Obama is different in character than his two predecessors. It’s hard to bend him, and even harder to win his heart. In Netanyahu’s first term, he got into a frontal clash with president Bush the father. He learned then that despite the support, despite the accessibility, despite the common language, in such clashes, he cannot win.
The question of who is right in the crisis that has been created is of secondary importance. Israel is dependent up to its neck on the American administration’s good will. It is dependent on it if it wishes to reach a solution to the conflict (Netanyahu believes that he is capable of reaching an agreement. He knows that he is the only one of his ministers who believes that he, of all people, will reach an agreement).
And it is dependent on the administration in the Iranian matter. Our old acquaintance Dennis Ross plays a major role in the administration’s handling of the Iranians. The good news for Israel is that there has been progress toward imposing concrete sanctions. The bad news is that Obama was angered again, with the criticism of the Americans that Ehud Barak made. Netanyahu was quick to fix it. So was Barak. Nevertheless, the damage was done.
— Nahum Barnea