Because of the less-than-hoped for results in the last election (Israel’s and in the U.S.), the situation as it stands in present U.S.-Israel relations is a Mexican standoff of ”do little, do nothing ”, and pay some major lip service. It’s the best scenario one could hope for the in the final four years of an Obama administration.
The Meaning of the Obama Visit to Israel and U.S.-Israel Relations in Obama’s Second Term
After doing what Obama wanted and then getting little or nothing in exchange, Israel is now faced with claims that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu never made any concessions to get negotiations going. After going along with Obama, it is now said in the United States that he tried to undermine Obama or didn’t cooperate.
And after the Palestinian Authority repeatedly killed negotiations—even after Obama announced in2010 that they would begin shortly at Camp David and Netanyahu agreed—it is a mainstay of mass media coverage that Netanyahu is responsible for the failure of negotiations to happen.
A friend joked that Netanyahu should change his first name from Benjamin to “Hard-line” since that’s the way he’s usually presented in the Western mass media.
Thus, Israeli cynicism should be—if people knew the factors behind it—understandable. After all, the sum total of international wisdom on the now-dead (but pretended to be alive) “peace process” is that this means Israel giving up things and getting nothing in return.
Yet Israel is prepared to go along with Obama again in some fashion. Why? Because it is necessary to preserve the strong relationship with the United States. Obama will be president for the next four years and some help from him is needed on the Iran nuclear issue, the likely growing threat from Egypt, military aid, and other issues.
That is political reality.
At the same time, though, the idea—again, prevalent in mass media coverage—that Netanyahu must “moderate” to form a government is not true. First, a very important lesson: Ignore everything said by Israeli politicians and media during the coalition-forming period because it is invariably misleading. This is what experience has shown virtually without exception.
Now, Netanyahu’s basic choice is to bring together at least two of the following three parties: The traditional liberal Yesh Atid led by Yair Lapid; the Sephardic religious Shas, and the right-wing Ha-Bayit Ha-Yehudi, led by Naftali Bennett. This is like the story of how you get the fox, the chicken, and the grain across a river without something getting eaten. It is very difficult.
Yesh Atid, led by Yair Lapid, has called for Netanyahu to work hard to get talks with the Palestinians going again. This has been treated as some major move of pressure. Of course not. That’s what Lapid is going to say and should say. And Netanyahu should also say—as he has done hundreds of times in the last four years—that he wants to get negotiations going.
That does not deal, however, with how many unilateral concessions Israel is willing to give to give to do so and whether the Palestinian Authority—now believing it is victorious from having the UN recognize it as a state—would go along. Everyone knows this. So to say that Israel should try to get negotiations going again is equivalent to someone in America saying that it is important to improve the economy.