21 May, 2009 Bitter Lemons International Edition 19 Volume 7
Seldom has an encounter between American and Israeli leaders been as hyped as this week’s meeting between President Barack Obama and Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu. As expected, Obama committed himself to diplomacy with Iran and pledged an enormous effort to achieve a two-state solution. Netanyahu continued to incite confrontation with Iran and refused to commit himself to a Palestinian state.
On the surface it may seem there are real differences and that the forces arrayed on each side–including the formidable Israel lobby–are gearing up for an epic battle to determine the fate of US-Israeli relations.
But Obama offered little new, reaffirming well-worn US positions that view Palestinians, particularly Hamas, as the aggressors, and Israel as the innocent victim. While calling for Israel to halt settlement construction (as US presidents have done for decades), Obama offered no hint that he would back those words with action. Quite the contrary, the president said he would urge Arab leaders to normalize relations with Israel, rewarding it in advance of any renewed peace talks.