Guest Post by Win Monroe: Discerning the Substance of the Obama-Netanyahu Meeting


Obama and Netanyah.jpg
Win Monroe is a research intern at the New America Foundation/American Strategy Program.
The reactions, commentary and analysis of Obama’s meeting with Netanyahu have varied widely in their assessments of Obama’s performance. David Ignatius believes that Obama took a positive first step forward in the peace process, while Martin Indyk went so far as to say that Obama got “suckered,” by Netanyahu.
Of course, the truth is probably less exciting than either analysis suggests. Stephen Walt points out that neither leader had much incentive to clash with the other and that general statements and vague answers to questions reigned the day.
There was some substance, however, to take away from the meeting.
First, Obama made it clear that Israel must honor its commitment to freeze settlement growth if it is to be taken seriously as a partner in the peace process (note: it would have been nice if a reporter could have put this question to Netanyahu in front of Obama, rather than harping on Iran for most of the half hour-long Q&A).
Second, while he did not set a specific deadline, Obama did lay out a rough metric for diplomatic efforts with Iran by identifying the end of the year as a point of assessment.
Third, and probably the only mild surprise, we later learned that Netanyahu and Obama set up a US-Israel working group on Iran, although it is unclear what exactly this amounts to.
Fourth, Obama intends to take a broader regional approach to the peace process, hoping to be able to offer the normalization of relations with moderate Arab regimes as an incentive for Netanyahu to engage his government in the process.
With regards to the last point, in the past many administrations have tried the regional approach and failed – but this does not mean it is a mistake to try again. A sustainable equilibrium is possible only if all of the major regional stakeholders are on board.
This point was emphasized by Zbigniew Brzezinski at a recent national policy forum on US-Saudi Relations hosted by the New America Foundation and the Committee for International Trade. Brzezinski explained that over the last 30 years we have seen clearly that this conflict cannot be resolved by the Israelis and Palestinians alone. He argued that “there is an urgent need for an American – Saudi Arabian genuine alliance for peace in the Middle East.”
David Ignatius seems to think that Obama is heeding Brzezinski’s advice. He describes Obama’s strategy in the following way:

The Obama strategy over the next few months will be to create a regional framework for peace negotiations that’s enticing enough to draw in the wary Netanyahu. To give Israel some quick tangible benefits, the United States wants the Arabs to begin normalizing relations with the Jewish state. Jordan’s King Abdullah describes this promise of recognition by the Arab League nations as a “23-state solution.”
The key to this front-loading strategy is Saudi Arabia. But the Saudis warn privately that they won’t normalize anything unless Israel makes some dramatic moves — such as freezing settlements in the occupied West Bank — that demonstrate its commitment to the 2003 “road map” for peace.

Now the question is whether the United States can provide the leadership and trust necessary for all sides to make the painful concessions necessary to move forward.
— Win Monroe


13 comments on “Guest Post by Win Monroe: Discerning the Substance of the Obama-Netanyahu Meeting

  1. JohnH says:

    The best that Palestinian supporters can hope for is that Israel’s underwriters grow tired of their arrogant, quarrelsome burden. It seems to me that the winds are shifting in that direction. People in power are actively beginning to discuss what a drag Israel is on American interests.
    Bibi and Liebermann are almost certain to accelerate the shift.


  2. PissedOffAmerican says:

    “The best Palestinian supporters can hope for is that Israel doesn’t follow the example of the Americans or Europeans. After all, the Americans fulfilled their “manifest destiny” by displacing (and killing) first millions of Native Americans and then tens of thousands of Mexicans”
    It took us a quite number of years to eradicate those pesky heathen redskins, the hapless victims of our racist ideas of religious and ethnic supremacy. We entered into bad faith agreements and treaties with them, made war on them, enslaved them, and consigned them to ever shrinking plots of land with no means through which to feed or support their people.
    Wig-wag,I’d say your argument is horseshit. Rather than deviate from our eradication methods, it seems Israel has studied them, and is actively following our formula for success.


  3. Carroll says:

    As usual wig wag has no idea what she is talking about….. .”The only security force credible enough to be acceptable to the Israelis will be the American military or a NATO force made up largely of Americans (with a few Turks thrown in so the force will have a Muslim “flavor”). ”
    Actually Palestine has been asking for an international peace keeping force for years.
    Palestinians Ask For UN Peacekeeping Force
    Thursday, October 26, 2000
    Palestinian representatives formally asked the UN Security Council yesterday to send peacekeeping troops to the Middle East to protect protesters from Israeli security forces.
    The request accuses Israel of using “all sorts of heavy weaponry” against Palestinians, resulting in major casualties (Steven Edwards, Toronto National Post, 26 Oct). “We call upon the Security Council to urgently convene a meeting to consider the situation and to establish a United Nations protection force to be dispatched in the occupied Palestinian territory, including Jerusalem, with the aim of providing much-needed protection for the Palestinian civilian population,” said Nasser al-Kidwa, the Palestinian observer at the UN.
    Security Council President Martin Andjaba of Namibia said the council discussed the issue yesterday evening and will continue discussions today (Edith Lederer, Associated Press, 26 Oct).
    The United States has said it would veto any council resolution on a peacekeeping force. “I want to make it absolutely clear that if there is a resolution, we will veto it,” said US Ambassador to the UN Richard Holbrooke (Reuters/, 25 Oct). But Palestinian officials said if the United States vetoes the resolution, they will turn the issue over to the General Assembly, where no nation has veto power (Edwards, Toronto National Post).
    Meanwhile, a senior Palestinian official said yesterday that Palestinians want the European Union, China, Russia, the United States and the United Nations to participate in any future talks with Israel. Ahmed Korei, speaker of the Palestinian Legislative Council, said Palestinians do not believe more peace talks with the United States as the sole mediator will work (Reuters/Karachi Dawn, 26 Oct).
    US and Israel Object to Peacekeepers in West Bank – Security …US and Israel Object to Peacekeepers in West Bank – Security Council – Global … “Israel firmly objects to a deployment of such a force ….”
    And I wouldn’t count on all those European nations and leaders you expect to be “pro Israel”…they are, after all, the same nations the Jews rant about being anti semitic all the time.
    Regardless of what Obama hasn’t done..yet..or ever..he has already “planted” the US position in the mind of Europe’s saying “no settlements” front of the whole watching world. It will be impossible for him to back down from that without blowing his entire presidency and showing himself to be the wimp some think he is. As for the Israelis in our congress who go against Obama on this…remember that congress still has that low 28% approval rating while Obama’s approval rating is 69 to 70%. The die hard Obama people, which are a considerable number, will be out for blood on any dems who cross him.


  4. WigWag says:

    jdledell says,
    “Israel will eventually have to decide what to do with the Palestinians.”
    While I hope a viable two state solution can be negotiated quickly (it is in everyone’s interest) the idea that time is running out on the two state solution is just another myth that doesn’t hold up under scrutiny. The fact that many people believe it (including Ehud Olmert and Tzipi Livni) doesn’t make it true. The reality is that the current situation, an Israel with ill-defined borders and forcibly occupying land beyond those borders that it conquered in war, can go on for decades.
    The claim that “time is running out” has been made often in the past 21 years but time never does seems to actually “run out.” The claim was first made in December, 1988 by Yasser Arafat when he met with a group of prominent American Jews including Steve Clemon’s bizarre and politically schizophrenic friend, Rita Hauser. In their meeting, Arafat, who had recently indicated a willingness to recognize Israel, suggested that a two state solution was possible but only if the parties moved quickly, “before time ran out.” Supposedly, time has been “running out” ever since.
    The apartheid metaphor is anachronistic and while it may set the hearts of a few powerless and irrelevant leftists in the United States and Europe fluttering, comparing Israel to South Africa has been tried before (continuously)with no practical effect. Comparing Israel to South Africa may make Israel critics feel good, but it is the political equivalent of spitting into the wind.
    Ironically, the only allies the Palestinians have in the world are the Americans and Europeans (most of the Muslim States are only pretend allies). Only someone naive enough to compare Khalid Mashal to Nelson Mandela can expect the political situation in the United States to change so dramatically that the American government starts comparing the Israeli Prime Minister to F.W. De Klerk or Pic Botha.
    And anyone who expects the sentiments of the Europeans to be consequential hasn’t been paying attention for the past 20 years. As for the immediate future in Europe, once David Cameron is elected in Great Britain, every consequential European nation will have the most pro-Israel Chief of State that it has ever had.
    As for the world’s rising superpowers, it was the idea of one person one vote that was so antithetical to apartheid. As I am sure you’ve noticed, the concept of one person, one vote doesn’t seem to be a very high priority for the Chinese. As for the Indians, they’re rather preoccupied with Pakistan and Muslim terrorist attacks which occur somewhere in India almost monthly. They just made the largest purchase (AWAC-like planes) from Israel Aerospace ever made in the history of the Company and Israel is training Indian troops in counterinsurgency. Do you really think they’re likely to be concerned about Palestinian travails any time soon?
    The best Palestinian supporters can hope for is that Israel doesn’t follow the example of the Americans or Europeans. After all, the Americans fulfilled their “manifest destiny” by displacing (and killing) first millions of Native Americans and then tens of thousands of Mexicans. In the aftermath of World War II, at the insistence of Winston Churchill, many millions of Europeans were uprooted from their ancient homes and forced to migrate based on their ethnicity; hundreds of thousands died in the process. Forced population movements are not unknown to the Chinese (millions of Han Chinese have been “induced” to move to Tibet) or the Indians (15 million people were forcibly evicted from their homes at the end of the British Raj in 1947.)
    The good news for the Palestinians and their Western supporters is that as bad as the Israelis treat the Palestinians (and they do treat them badly) Israel is unlikely to behave as terribly as the Americans, Europeans or Chinese and there won’t be the forced movements of populations like was witnessed on the Indian subcontinent. In fact the population most likely to be uprooted by the Israelis are their own settlers who will be forcibly repatriated to “Israeli” territory once a peace deal is negotiated.
    But I would be very surprised if that peace deal came any time soon. Territorial compromise will be a cinch compared to working out security arrangements. The Israelis will never leave the West Bank unless they can be guaranteed that Iranian supplied ordinance won’t be launched at them from the new Palestinian State on the West Bank. The only security force credible enough to be acceptable to the Israelis will be the American military or a NATO force made up largely of Americans (with a few Turks thrown in so the force will have a Muslim “flavor”). How long do you suppose it will be before the Palestinians are as sick of occupying NATO forces as they were of occupying Israeli forces? How long did it take the Iraqis to grow tired of the Americans?
    As for your suggestion that Israel trade portions of the Negev for the close in settlements, this might be a good idea but there are problems associated with it. Do the Palestinians really want barren, untillable land? Are the Israelis prepared to cede land adjacent to Gaza controlled by their implacable foe, Hamas?
    Moreover, the Israelis have the technical know-how and expertise to make the Negev livable. Ber Sheva, the “capitol” of the Negev has become a thriving metropolis with a major research university (Ben Gurion University). Will the Palestinians be able to achieve anything comparable with this land? To my mind, it’s doubtful in the near or even intermediate term. After all, Sinai and the Negev are just two names for the same desert region. What exactly have the Egyptians made of the Sinai since it was returned to them?
    Remind me again why the Palestinians would want a piece of the Negev (the “land bridge” idea doesn’t cut it; if any State is established at all it will be established in the West Bank and Jerusalem with Gaza left out; this is the “wonderful gift” bequeathed to the Gazans by Iran and Hamas).
    As for your comment about a one state solution, maybe people who support this idea should set their sites a little lower. Perhaps they should test market the idea first. How about trying to get Hamas and Fatah to coexist without slitting each others throats before adding 5.5 million Jewish Israelis into the mix?


  5. jdledell says:

    wig wag – Like South Africa, Israel will eventually have to decide what to do with the Palestinians. As it continues to expand settlement there is very little room currently for a viable Palestinian state and within 3-4 years there will be no room.
    It’s in Israel’s self interest to avoid a one state solution or a formalized apartheid solution. The time to do that is now, not later when it is impossible.
    Israel’s arrogance as a result of it’s military and economic power will eventually catch up with them. Look back at the history of Jews, they have been tossed out of Israel several times. It is doubtful that Iran’s quest for nuclear weapon will be avoided and that in turn will bring WMD proliferation to the mideast. The odds are that Israel will get it’s comeuppance by revenge inspired muslims.
    Israel can avoid a very unpleasant future if it just makes a realistic and just peace offer. The Palestinians trade the right of return for a capital in East Jerusalem and let Israel keep Ma’ale Adumim and Ariel as well as the close in settlements in return for a big chunk of the Negev attached to Gaza and a land bridge between ther two Palestinian enclaves. The Palestinians control their own borders and agree to not allow heavy weapons.


  6. JohnH says:

    I have to agree with Anonymous–peace is the existential threat for Israel.
    How is that possible? Well, peace doesn’t have any defined revenue stream attached to it. Paranoia has proven highly lucrative–a constant stream of US military aid, loan guarantees and other preferential treatment. It also helps to open the bulging pockets of wealthy elements of the diaspora.
    If Israel couldn’t convince the world that they were under perpetual, imminent threat, who would cough up the big bucks to keep their economy afloat?


  7. WigWag says:

    Anonymous says,
    “WigWag et al: Why can’t you get it through your heads that it is peace that is the ‘existential threat.’ You believe that the Israelis can be bought.”
    No I don’t. I believe that Israel will act in what it believes its self interest to be, just like any other nation.
    Certainly the realists here can’t object to that. After all it’s what they want the United States to do vis a vis the Middle East.
    Anonymous also says,
    “You are dealing with forces here that you do not understand.”
    Yes Anonymous, regretfully I do not share your deep understanding.
    I’m merely a dope saying what I think just like all the other commenters here with seriously flawed perceptive abilities.
    I must say that it is rather pugnacious and not particularly sporting of you to point out how much smarter you are than the rest of us.


  8. Anonymous says:

    WigWag et al: Why can’t you get it through your heads that it is
    peace that is the ‘existential threat.’ You believe that the Israelis
    can be bought. That the retail corruption of some is a reflection of
    their deep beliefs. It is not. On this level they cannot be bought.
    You are dealing with forces here that you do not understand. They
    will not withdraw, in any way that means anything more than
    Sharon’s ‘withdrawal’ from Gaza.
    In the meantime they will ensure that this blog and the class it
    reaches remain occupied with the same formulaic and useless
    discourse that has kept them out of the way for the last fifty years.
    Not a difficult task, it seems.


  9. PissedOffAmerican says:

    “So far, Obama looks like the weakling I always thought he was. It’s rather hard to believe that his courage will increase as the mid term elections get closer”
    On this we agree. But I don’t share your glee.


  10. WigWag says:

    A quick read of the Martin Indyk piece in the Daily Beast and the David Ignatius op ed in the Washington Post makes clear that Indyk is right and Ignatius is wrong (Ignatius has always been in the tank for Little Miss Can’t Be Wrong, aka Barack Obama).
    Here’s what Bibi got from Barack: (1) A statement that all options are on the table vis a vis Iran; (2) a “soft” deadline of the end of the year for negotiations with Iran to bear fruit (The negotiations haven’t even started yet. During negotiations between the Americans and Vietnamese, four months was spent discussing the shape of the negotiating table); (3) a joint American-Israeli task force on Iran.
    Here’s what Barack got from Bibi: Nothing. No commitments to even consider a settlement freeze; no promises other than to begin negotiations with the Palestinians that Bibi had already made; No commitment to enact any confidence building measures in the West Bank.
    Bibi got what he wanted in a first meeting; Obama got skunked.
    American realists who bemoan the influence of Israel’s supporters in the United States really make me laugh. Don’t they recognize that the Israelis are the ultimate realists? Surely they should know that the only way Israel will ever agree to withdraw from most of the West Bank and significant portions of Jerusalem is if the United States and European nations can convince Israel that it will be more prosperous and safer if it leaves than if it stays. The Israelis won’t take risks for peace; why should they? The Americans wouldn’t; neither would the Europeans. As for the rest of the world (e.g. the Chinese or the Indians); they couldn’t care less about the Palestinians.
    It is doubtful but possible that Israel can be offered enough inducements (such as EU membership) to make leaving the West Bank sufficiently remunerative that it might be worth the risk.
    It is almost inconceivable that the United States or Europe will be able to demonstrate to the Israelis that they will be safer if they leave the West Bank than if they stay. This is especially true if Iran maintains its ability to ship rockets capable of hitting major Israeli cities into the West Bank should the Israelis should depart.
    Iranian nuclear capabilities are a smoke screen; Iranian conventional capabilities are the problem. Unless Iran’s ability to support Palestinian resistance movements is thwarted, an Israeli withdrawal will never take place. The current status quo can be maintained for decades.
    Despite his protestations to the contrary, Obama either needs to find a way (militarily or otherwise) to prevent Iran from arming Hamas or he needs to give up on his aspirations for a two state solution during his presidency. It’s his call; he can’t have one without the other.
    While Hillary Clinton has been surprisingly belligerent to Iran she has actually be far tougher on Bibi than the President has been. Even Biden has been tougher on Israel than President Obama.
    So far, Obama looks like the weakling I always thought he was. It’s rather hard to believe that his courage will increase as the mid term elections get closer.


  11. PissedOffAmerican says:

    Monroe feeds us another tepid analysis, the popular think tank way to package horseshit.
    Note that simultaneous to these touchy feely essays from these wishy washy think tankers, aides to Netanyahu are calling a two state solution “stupid and childish”, demolitions are continuing, settlement expansion is accelerating, Tristan Anderson is still a vegetable abandoned by his country, and this witch Hillary uses rhetoric in public that is designed to derail diplomacy with Iran before it even begins.
    Meanwhile, Congress is actually going to INCREASE aid to this murderous pack of racist monsters currently at the helm of Israel, and Israelis caught spying on the US are given a free pass.
    “Now the question is whether the United States can provide the leadership and trust necessary for all sides to make the painful concessions necessary to move forward”
    When has Israel ever made a “concession”? In violation of a myriad of UN resolutions, a consistent maker of bad faith promises, and a blatant deceiver when confronted with evidence of its war crimes and human rights abuses.
    As Dan points out above, Obama doesn’t even have the balls to put any grit in his dealings with a defeated and despised Republican party spearheaded by this buffoon Steele and the likes of the fat addict Limbaugh. Now we are supposed to believe this mewling posturing fraud is going to stand up to Israel and the huge contingent of bribed and cowered Congresspeople that have for years now have sold us out to AIPAC and its masters?
    In a remarkably short period of time, Obama has shown us what he is made of, and it ain’t much. Is there any campaign promise he hasn’t broke?
    Stand up to Israel? No effin’ way. He has neither the balls, nor the patriotism.


  12. Anonymous says:

    Once again Kervick has it right.
    One essential thing though. The folks who can put the
    signatures of seventy senators on a napkin have no intention of
    making any concessions to ‘move forward.’ Making concessions
    is not ‘forward.’
    Peace is not ‘forward.’
    Neither Jabotinsky nor Ben Gurion nor Shamir nor Begin nor
    Sharon nor anyone else in the Israeli leadership has ever had a
    map of ‘Israel’ in mind that looked anything like the map of
    ‘Israel’ does today. And they are moving forward. More
    settlements, more Palestinian misery, more war, more
    possibilities. In their minds the West Bank has been Israeli for
    ninety years. As has a great deal more. Liberal Zionists might
    say, in their hearts, ‘Well, not too much more.” The rest say,
    “Well, who can say. Perhaps a great deal more.”
    What they will not do is stop.


  13. Dan Kervick says:

    After today, I feel like it is 2002 again. Obama apparently doesn’t have slightest idea about how to change the dominant narrative of the Bush zeitgeist, and as a result he has been swallowed up by it. Fear, terrorists, war, Muslims. He’s swallowed the whole script, hook, line and sinker. It’s like a damn zombie horror flick: “Grrrr…. Must stop Muslims! Must stop Muslims!”
    The Republicans couldn’t be any weaker, and yet he has been dragged down from the Oval Office into a debate with Dick Cheney. Dick Cheney! Perhaps the least popular man in America! It’s stupefying.
    And please, Mr. Monroe. If I hear one more line about this cockamamie “quiet alliance” between Israel and “moderate Arabs”, I am going to puke. Talk about the triumph of wishful thinking over realism! Now we’re back with the “moderate Arabs” buncombe? This is the same unreal rhetoric we have been using for decades, and the whole silly scheme is just another desperate attempt to pull a magic diplomatic rabbit out of the hat and forestall reality forever. Betting on the power of the least popular and most despotic rulers in the region? Is this country just terminally fucking STUPID?
    I was willing to allow Obama the leeway to finesse his way into a new posture. But at this point, I think the time for subtlety has passed. Just go long, go bold and go to Tehran and get it over with, Barack, and stop dragging the old regional balls and chains behind you!
    And I know it is early, but Obama needs to start firing people and bringing in some new blood, new ideas and brassier balls. He is killing his presidency with tired old guard thinking. I rue the day he got friendly with John Podesta.
    Right now he looks like a typical post-Reagan Democrat, chronically AFRAID of Republicans, and overly-eager to please them and earn their respect. This is Clinton-Kerry-Clinton all over again. Message to Obama: change does not lie between the two yellow lines in the middle of the road. Just … stop … triangulating!


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