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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on February 8th, 2013
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

Our Editorial:

The US Ambassador in Tel-Aviv, Mr. Dan Shapiro, and Secretary of State John Kerry are preparing the visit of President Obama and expect the evolution of realism on the part of the new Israeli Government.

Realism starts with the understanding that Mr. Obama has won the elections in the United States despite attempted interference from Republican factors that tried to use Israel as part of their internal-American warfare. The same factors also ended up weakening Mr. Netanyahu. He has now to decide between being in a minority in his own government, or accept the reality of a coalition that takes as well into account the political interests of Mr. Obama. These are the re-creation of a united Israel that recognizes the needs of a National State, and its attempt at a compromise with a moderate Palestine. America is stronger now in the region then ever before, because it becomes less dependent on Arab oil, and this will have effect in Ryad and in the Gulf States that ought to be expected to lower the opposition they had before to a settlement with Israel.

The bottom line of the above is that President Obama becomes king-maker in Israel, while Netanyahu has lost in his attempt of being King-maker in the United States.

Mr. Obama will have many subjects in his attache case in this trip to the Middle East. The US and Israel have to focus on topics like Iran, Syria, Palestine, Egypt, the political effects and the environment effects of the global dependence on oil, joint efforts to institute new and renewable sources of energy, the future of multilateralism and the UN, the evolution of politics in the Arab World – will there be a spring or a return to the Middle Ages – is above dilemma also in the cards of the politics in Israel and the US as well? Secretary Kerry on his trip will limit the list of topics and the new Netanyahu Government that is established in Israel will have to fit the short list that evolves. Everything is in the timing!

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Ahead of US President Barack Obama’s arrival to Tel-Aviv  on March 20th, confidantes of Netanyahu in the Prime Minister’s Office told the  Maariv paper that their boss “would be willing to make compromises in the negotiations with the Palestinians, but it would depend on the price Israel would have to pay.” Moreover, “Netanyahu understands that things need to advance, he is committed to that, and he is able to show progress,” one said. Next week, Netanyahu’s special envoy, Yitzhak Molcho, travels to the US to discuss ways of renewing the negotiations with the Palestinians. But The Haaretz reports that Netanyahu aides deny the Prime Minister is considering a settlement freeze, which is a basic condition of the Palestinians to restart negotiations.

We find of interest the March 20 date which coincidentally is the day ahead of the Equinox of Spring or the Iranian New Year – which this year is also a stage in the election of a new President in Iran. This gives the date the potential for an interesting surprise relating to Iran.

Israel Hayom, owned by American Republican casino-magnate Sheldon Adelson, writes that the right-wing are concerned that Netanyahu will agree to a settlement freeze and that the Prime Minister’s Office is not willing to comment on the issue. The Yesha Settler Council wants to meet with Obama in order to share the settlers’ perspective directly with him, Maariv reported. One can expect that he will agree to meet with them as he will meet with the Abbas leadership as well.

Two Netanyahu associates gave Yedioth’s esteemed political affairs commentator, Nahum Barnea, completely contradictory predictions about Netanyahu’s future acts. One said that Netanyahu will go far to appease Obama and the European Union on the Palestinian issue. The other, who has completely opposite political views, said Netanyahu’s big act this year will be war against Iran’s nuclear project.

A Palestinian official told Israel Army Radio that if anyone can change Israel’s attitude, it’s Obama.

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A Blog of the Manhattan based Council on Foreign Relations just posted, in our opinion a mild and thus incomplete view of this early visit by the American President – the title is:

Obama’s Reset Opportunity With Israel.

by Robert M. Danin
February 6, 2013

The White House announced yesterday that Barack Obama will visit Israel in March, his first visit there as president. The decision reportedly follows a January 28 telephone conversation between the president, just starting his second term, and newly reelected Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

The visit is a welcome opportunity to reset the U.S.-Israel relationship for the next four years. It is significant that the visit was agreed to and announced even before Prime Minister Netanyahu had an opportunity to put together a new government and establish a new set of priorities and policies for the nineteenth Knesset. It suggests that the White House recognizes that with many Middle East policy challenges ahead on a vast array of regional issues—Iran, Syria, advancing Israeli-Palestinian peace—it is necessary to strengthen a core prerequisite—mutual trust—before the more intensive policy debate can proceed.

To be sure, it is imperative that the United States and Israel, as allies, define their shared objectives together. But Obama’s upcoming visit needs to be less policy and more fundamental—a reaffirmation of the United States’ core connection to Israel, its safety, and desire to help a secure Israel realize its long-term dream of a peace with its neighbors that anchors the country’s long-term security and future in the region.

The president will also visit Ramallah where he can reassure disenchanted Palestinians that the United States genuinely wants Palestine to emerge soon as an independent and democratic state living side by side with Israel in peace and security.  It is an opportunity for the United States to demonstrate that support for Israel and support for Palestine is not a zero-sum game. To the contrary, it must be win-win. Only a superpower that embraces both sides—and occasionally employs tough love in the advancement of larger shared objectives—can help the two sides achieve that which they cannot do alone. But this visit to both sides must be about the love.

Obama’s visit to Israel provides the president an opportunity not only to demonstrate that he wishes to establish a new and invigorated relationship with Prime Minister Netanyahu, but to establish a relationship with an even more important partner: the Israeli and Palestinian people. Both sides suffer from a deep and well-earned pessimism about the possibilities about peace with the other.

If indeed the president still believes that peace is both possible and necessary, this is a golden opportunity for him to make the case directly to these two war-weary populations.  If comprehensive peace is no longer his immediate objective, given the Middle East’s challenges and upheaval, then it is still critical that the president offers an understanding of the regional dynamics and a commitment to stay engaged with his friends as they struggle in the face of a worrisome future. In short, the president must demonstrate that he gets it from the perspective of the people on the ground.

Just as some criticize the president for not visiting Israel during his first term, some will criticize Obama for going to Israel too early into his second term, before he has a clear set of policy choices he wishes Israelis, Palestinians, and others in the region to make. But this visit will be about something more basic: affirming genuine friendship, and establishing greater trust and a human connection. In doing so, he will demonstrate his commitment to remain engaged in the Middle East, not pivot away at the expense of a region where there is no such thing as benign neglect.

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