Guest Post by Jonathan Guyer: The U.S. Takes Bibi Steps


(Credit: Jonathan Guyer)
Jonathan Guyer is a Program Associate at the New America Foundation/Middle East Task Force.
Two weeks ago, Jordanian King Abdullah’s visit to the White House brought President Obama’s announcement that the Egyptian, Israeli, and Palestinian premiers would make field trips to Washington.
Since then, some analysts have suggested that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s visit tomorrow may bring a confrontation between the hawkish Prime Minister and an Obama administration eager to distance itself from Israel.
Those who predict a row or showdown point to significant differences between the two leaders on Iran, settlements, and Palestinian statehood. But an early confrontation between the leaders – because of Netanyahu’s reluctance to say “two-states” or commit to limiting settlement activity in the occupied West Bank – would be a mistake.
During a White House press conference with the Jordanian monarch last month, Obama hinted at the role he thinks the US should take in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict:

Unfortunately, right now what we’ve seen not just in Israel but within the Palestinian Territories, among the Arab states, worldwide, is a profound cynicism about the possibility of any progress being made whatsoever.
What we want to do is to step back from the abyss; to say, as hard as it is, as difficult as it may be, the prospect of peace still exists — but it’s going to require some hard choices, it’s going to require resolution on the part of all the actors involved, and it’s going to require that we create some concrete steps that all parties can take that are evidence of that resolution. And the United States is going to deeply engage in this process to see if we can make progress.

Re-engaging in the peace process will take more than stepping away from the ‘abyss.’ Obama’s recipe for Middle East peace cannot only be the anti-Bush doctrine; it will need original thinking and sustained American leadership.
There are plenty of details Obama and Netanyahu could squabble over, but the priority should be to get the ball rolling on a comprehensive peace deal – an “everything for everything” scenario that normalizes Arab-Israeli relations.
President Obama is in a strong position. As United States Institute of Peace Associate Scott Lasenky says, “There is no incentive in Israeli politics to foster or sustain disagreements with Washington. Quite the opposite; Israeli leaders will go to great lengths to ensure smooth and tranquil ties.”
Rather than coming to blows with Netanyahu, Obama should take advantage of his strong position to provide a clear and simple message to Israel – ‘let’s make this deal deliver.’
— Jonathan Guyer


24 comments on “Guest Post by Jonathan Guyer: The U.S. Takes Bibi Steps

  1. WigWag says:

    Dan Kervick is actually not current when he states,
    “the most popular leader in the Arab world, at least according to last year’s Arab Public Opinion Poll, is Hassan Nasrallah.”
    He correctly quoted the 2008 poll, but the 2009 version of the poll that is now out and Hassan Nasrallah has seen his popularity fall dramatically in the Arab world. He is now less popular that President Assad of Syria. Moreover, Cookies_and_milk (May 18 2009, 3:19AM)is correct; Osama Bin Laden is more popular in the Arab world than Nassrallah is. Here’s the data from the 2009 poll of the Arab world:
    Question: “Which two leaders outside your own country do you admire most?”
    1)Hugo Chavez-36%
    2)Jaques Chirac-18%
    3)Bashar al-Assad-18%
    4)Osama Bin Laden-16%
    5)Muhammad bin Zayed-15%
    6)Nicolas Sarkozy-14%
    7)Hassan Nasrallah-11%
    8)Mahmoud Ahmadinajad-10%
    9)Sadaam Hussein-9%
    10)Recap Erdogan-9%
    11)Muhammad bin Rashid-7%
    12)Hosni Mubarak-7%


  2. PissedOffAmerican says:
    Israel to build first new settlement in West Bank in 26 years
    Middle East News
    May 18, 2009, 12:36 GMT
    Tel Aviv – Israel is beginning construction of the first completely new Jewish settlement in the occupied West Bank in 26 years, Israel Army Radio reported Monday.
    Contractors toured the site of the new Maskiyot settlement, in the Jordan Valley, after the regional settler council issued a tender for the construction of 20 new homes on it, the station said.
    Expansion work also began Monday on the Jewish settlement of Nokdim, the home of ultra-nationalist Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman, the station added. No further details were immediately available.
    The moves come as Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was due to attend his first meeting with US President Barack Obama later Monday, despite US and European calls for Israel to halt its settlement activity.
    You tell ’em, Barack!!! You got them Israelis on the run now!!!


  3. PissedOffAmerican says:

    Got a message this morning that I “was not allowed to post comments”. Thought I’d see if its for real, or a glitch..


  4. DonS says:

    This NYT article makes the meeting sound like a typical diplomatic dance: no signs of feathers ruffled; no signs of who had the top hand (as if there were really two sides); and no signs of expected changes.
    As to timelines, it seems Obama blinked in the sense that he cited the end of the year for progress with Iran, whereas Bibi kept the same vague formulations regarding Palestinian governance and didn’t address the settlement isue at all. That settment issues, of course, is simply a throwaway line since implementation of anything remotely resembling Israeli acquiescence and withdrawal is years, if not decades away. Some of us have been hearing this same tired “settlement issue” for decades. And just shake our heads.
    Behind the scenes? Anything different? We need some ‘sources’ for that.


  5. Paul Norheim says:

    “Mr Obama said “it is not in Iran’s interest” to develop nuclear
    arms, and that the US would keep options open.
    He stressed that “we should have some sense by the end of
    the year” on whether talks with Iran were bearing fruit.” (BBC)
    Conclusion: A coordinated US-Israeli attack on Iran will
    probably not take place before spring or summer 2010. Perhaps
    Obama believes that the economy has recovered at that time, so
    America can afford a new war.
    If Bush hadn`t had his hands full with Iraq, he would have
    attacked Iran. The only hope for the Persians now is a
    prolonging of the economic recession, and Pakistan developing
    into mayhem and uncontrollable chaos. If the AfPak strategy
    (against all odds) should succeed, and America prosper again
    soon, all hell will break loose in Iran.
    Moral: Do not hope for things to improve in one place, as it only
    results in more death and mayhem somewhere else.


  6. DonS says:

    Apparently Bibi gave Barak permission to say that “we” have to make “progress on settlements”, and “That’s a difficult thing to recognize” (for who?):
    I wonder, has the obligatory Congressional resolution yet been passed lauding all things Israeli? Or has AIPAC decided, you know, after Chas Freeman and the dismissal of the espionage indictment, to skip it this time, just because.


  7. Rosa says:

    The initiation of a peace deal is key for the region and hopefully it
    is something that will happen during the next few years, but I
    doubt it will happen during this trip. Chances are the summit will
    be more about Iran than Palestine:


  8. samuelburke says:

    from steven walt on foreing
    Nonetheless, Obama could begin to lay the foundation for genuine progress by speaking candidly tomorrow. Once the pleasantries are over, here’s what I hope the president will say:
    Obama: “Mr. Prime Minister, I have five points to make about relations between our two countries and the situation in the Middle East.
    First, I was elected president of the United States, and my foreign policy will be guided by what I believe to be the American national interest.
    Second, I am convinced—as are all of my foreign policy advisors, all of America’s other allies around the world, and my predecessor in the Oval Office — that a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinians is the only feasible way to settle the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. This means the creation of a viable Palestinian state on virtually all of the West Bank and Gaza, with mutually agreed-upon arrangements on security, air and water rights, the status of Jerusalem, custody over the holy sites there, and the refugee issue. Not only do I believe that this outcome is still possible and in the U.S. national interest, but I also believe — like your predecessor, Ehud Olmert — that Israel’s own future is imperiled if there is no two-state solution.


  9. proudlyprogressive says:

    The following is a list of the war crimes committed by ‘bibi’ Mr. Netanyahu’s alleged crimes include:
    * Authorizing extra-judicial executions throughout his term as Prime Minister.
    * Authorizing the torture of over approximately 2500 Palestinians in Israeli jails, leading to the deaths of several detainees and injury to many more. The International Convention against Torture — ratified by the state of Israel — as well as the Convention on Civil and Political Rights explicitly prohibit torture under any circumstances.
    * Authorizing over 249 house demolitions in the occupied territories — unequivocally prohibited by the 4th Geneva Convention — constituting a war crime in the form of collective punishment.
    * Authorizing the construction of 6500 settlement-housing units in the occupied territories — in contravention of several United Nations Security Council resolutions as well as Article 49 of the 4th Geneva Convention — and increasing the number of illegal settlers in the Palestinian occupied territories by 9%.
    * Authorizing the deadly and disproportionate use of force in September 1996 against unarmed demonstrators protesting his order to blast a tunnel under Al-Haram Al-Sharif (Temple Mount).
    All of the above-cited crimes are documented and verifiable, by both eyewitness and expert testimony.
    Pardon me while I barf!!!!


  10. PissedOffAmerican says:

    Republicans Laud Obama’s Hawkish Tack
    Dems Take a “Wait and See” Approach
    by Jason Ditz, May 17, 2009
    With President Obama’s policy shifts of the past week, he has found a new cheering section: Republican Congressmen. Senator Lindsey Graham (R – SC) in particular cheered the moves, lauding what he called “intelligent, well-reasoned decisions about trying to clean up the old system but not throwing it out.”
    Obama Emphasizes Iran ‘Threat’ on Eve of Netanyahu Visit
    Aides Say Visit to Center On Iran, Not Peace Deal
    by Jason Ditz, May 17, 2009
    On the eve of his meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, President Obama has given an interview in which he claims to “understand why” Israel considers Iran an existential threat.
    I warned you about this posturing fraud. This slimy lying opportunist is every bit as dangerous as Cheney/Bush, probably even more so. At least Bush/Cheney had visible scales, and rattled before they struck.


  11. samuelburke says:

    and americas press corp gets all lathered up about a journalist accused of spying in iran but is forced to turn its back on this story…
    Friday, 13 March 2009, Ni’lin Village: An American citizen has been critically injured in the village of Ni’lin after Israeli forces shot him in the head with a tear-gas canister.
    Tristan Anderson from California USA, 37 years old, has been taken to Israeli hospital Tel Hashomer, near Tel Aviv. Anderson was unconscious and bleeding heavily from the nose and mouth. He sustained a large hole in the right part of his forehead where he was struck by a tear gas canister. The heavy impact from the tear gas canister being shot directly at him, from about 60 meters, also caused severe damage to his right eye, which he may lose. Tristan underwent brain surgery in which part of his right frontal lobe and shattered bone fragments were removed.
    Tristan was shot by the new tear-gas canisters that can be shot up to 500m. I ran over as I saw someone had been shot, while the Israeli forces continued to fire tear-gas at us. When an ambulance came, the Israeli soldiers refused to allow the ambulance through the checkpoint just outside the village. After 5 minutes of arguing with the soldiers, the ambulance passed.
    – Teah Lunqvist (Sweden) – International Solidarity Movement


  12. samuelburke says:

    how f-cked up is it that these zionist murderers have become americas best friend…they spy on the u.s and get away with it, they murder the sailors of the u.s liberty and get away with it…the fbi puts together evidence against zionist spies and aipac gets one over on them and get them set free.
    and in the words of (poa) “Gosh, you mean being mute about frying Palestinains in white phosphorous, ignoring accelerated settlement expansion, and having no comment on Israeli jackboots shooting American citizens engaged in peaceful protest isn’t convincing Israel to change its ways?”
    how embarrasing it must be for american intelligence agencies.
    aipac (mossad) or whatever else you may call the zionist enemy agents in our midst keep winning the battle against our american intelligence agencies.
    the american sailors on the u.s liberty who were killed by the zionist israelis cry out for their blood to be avenged.
    whatever happened to supermans motto?
    truth justice and the american way.
    note to mr america…how does it feel to be aipacs bitch?


  13. Dan Kervick says:

    Thanks Don. I’m hoping that if I work hard enough I can get a dead fish in the mail from Rahm Emanuel.


  14. Dan Kervick says:

    Just so everybody else is clear despite the joke from Cookies and Milk, the most popular leader in the Arab world, at least according to last year’s Arab Public Opinion Poll, is Hassan Nasrallah.
    See pages 95-97:


  15. Mr.Murder says:

    Threaten to pull all our money out for the purpose of a balanced budget. That’s all any of this is about in fundamental terms.
    See how they find ways to agree….


  16. Cookies_and_milk says:

    Dan Kervick said:
    “The real Palestinian leadership is not invited to this pilgrimage of “key regional leaders”. The inmates of the Israeli-Egyptian prison and target range in Gaza didn’t make the A-list. Neither did the representatives of a country of 70 million people that stands right in the heart of the region and every political and economic crossroads that intersects there. Nor is the most popular leader in the region invited.”
    Obama should also show respect to the muslim world and invite bin laden, instead of threatening to hunt down and kill the brave muslim warrior of oppressed, the muslim Che.
    Change? Sounds like the same old neocons.


  17. Don Bacon says:

    Dan, I’ve said it before but I’ll say it again — when you’re hot, you’re hot. When I grow up I want to write like that.


  18. PissedOffAmerican says:

    Steve, you forgot to inform your guest bloggers, Guyer and Kutsch, that your regular readers aren’t idiots.


  19. Dan Kervick says:

    The real Palestinian leadership is not invited to this pilgrimage of “key regional leaders”. The inmates of the Israeli-Egyptian prison and target range in Gaza didn’t make the A-list. Neither did the representatives of a country of 70 million people that stands right in the heart of the region and every political and economic crossroads that intersects there. Nor is the most popular leader in the region invited.
    Hell, with a brilliant start like this, how can this effort possibly fail?
    It looks like another typically clueless and provincial DC dumbopalooza: a big, glitzy Potemkin diplomatic project built on a foundation of sand. The new administration’s respectful continuity with our finest American traditions of flim-flam and falderal, and loving homage to the best bonehead foreign capers of the past, is indeed heartwarming. Excuse me while I wipe a nostalgic tear from my eye.
    The parade of toadies and co-conspirators lining up in Washington for their photo-op show-talks are the cast of a stage-managed fiasco that belongs right up there with Colin Powell’s UN presentation. I predict an “amazing concordance of opinion on the key problems facing the region”. Equally amazing: those old pals granted an official audience with Pope Barack I will agree that the key problems facing the region consist mainly in the unpleasant existence of the people who were not invited.
    Hey Iran: you thought that Mossadegh coup was bad? Well you’re about to get it in the ass again from the US and its shabby new coalition of “partners for peace.” I hope you already have a sheltered spot picked out where you can shield your kids from the bunker-busters. While you and your Shia friends in Lebanon are getting ready to hold actual elections, a friendly posse of despots, oil barons and neo-Afrikaners are assembling around our new Sheriff in Washington to ride out save your region from the Threats to Democracy and Moderation.
    It’s one of the oldest maneuvers in the book: build unity among a fractious coalition of gangsters by scapegoating a “common enemy” and having at them. In the West’s old days, they would have zeroed in on the Jews. But the latter are in the Kool Kidz Klub this time around. It’s the dreaded Persian Empire that has been selected for example-making on this occasion.


  20. DonS says:

    Pathetic. Ridiculous. Pipsqueek Israel occupies this position of “strength” and “importance” vis a vis the big bad US.
    Just shoot me now.


  21. Gene says:

    An interesting article despite quite a few pro-zionist slants from the author: The Impact of Russian Immigration on the Israeli-Palestinian Peace Process


  22. JohnH says:

    Obama invited the Palestinian premier? That would be Hamas’ Ismail Haniya. Instead he invited ex-President Abbas, whose legitimacy is problematic at best.
    Not a good kick off for the “peace process,” ignoring the legitimately elected prime minister and inviting a former President to represent the Palestinians.
    You don’t need to know anything more to know exactly what kind of “peace process” to expect. Genuine negotiations require participation of legitimate leaders, not hand picked quislings. Once more the Palestinians get screwed…


  23. PissedOffAmerican says:

    Obama says Iran war not off the table
    Obama says he did not take any options off the table about Iran.
    President Barack Obama says the US has not taken military action against Iran over its nuclear program off the table ahead of the Israeli premier’s trip to Washington.
    In an interview with Newsweek on Saturday, Obama made it clear that he did not take any options off the table when asked about war with Iran.
    “I’ve been very clear that I don’t take any options off the table with respect to Iran. I don’t take options off the table when it comes to US security, period,” said Obama.
    Iran would be a main topic of talks during Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s meeting with President Obama in Washington this week.
    The new government of Barack Obama says it wants to engage diplomatically with Iran to resolve the country’s nuclear issue but has simultaneously followed in the Bush adminestration’s footsteps by pursuing double-edged policy of carrots and sticks with Iran.
    “What I have said is that we want to offer Iran an opportunity to align itself with international norms and international rules,” the US president noted in his Saturday interview.
    Perhaps this posturing piece of crap fraud, Obama, will now tell the American people erxactly what international “rules” and “norms” Iran is failing to adhere to? How’s Israel’s nuclear arsenal hold up under this criteria?
    Change, my ass.


  24. PissedOffAmerican says:

    Gosh, you mean being mute about frying Palestinains in white phosphorous, ignoring accelerated settlement expansion, and having no comment on Israeli jackboots shooting American citizens engaged in peaceful protest isn’t convincing Israel to change its ways?
    Well heck, lets try sending them even MORE more money, and mimic their rhetoric about Iran’s legal adherence to the NPT. I believe “illicit” is the key word that AIPAC and Obama like to throw around.
    And if that doesn’t work, we can always count on our Secretary of State to come through with the pre-diplomacy tactic of declaring diplomacy with Iran a waste of time, and that more “stringent” sanctions will be needed.
    Now THATS telling them thar Israelis, by golly! We got’ em right where we want ’em!


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