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Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Obama: "Settlements greater threat to Israel's survival than Iran"

By some, this story will be dubbed, "tit-for-tat" in that it was Netanyahu who publicly expressed a preference for Obama's opponent in the most recent U.S. presidential campaign; now it would seem, "turn-about-is-fair-play". However, Obama's incisive observations are not merely about personal pique or personal ambition for political office. They are more about the long-term future of the state of Israel.
If Netanyahu's defiant construction of settlements does indeed threaten a two-state solution, and peace and security for a secular Israeli state in a much more turbulent Middle East than either leader would have predicted four years ago, then the Iranian nuclear threat will be little more than a footnote to history, following the demise of Israel.
Two states that literally hate each other (Iran and Israel), both conceivably isolated from the international community, and both possessing nuclear weapons, one of them supported by the U.S., the other supported by Russia and China potentially, could become another theatre for a proxy conflict just as Syria has become with Russia blocking all United Nations reasonable resolutions to bring the Assad regime before the International Criminal Court, (especially after yesterday's killing of 82 students at the University of Aleppo, while taking exams).
If we think, or have been led to believe that the personal/professional relationship between Obama and Netanyahu was icy in the past, this story could easily freeze the Israeli leader out of his office in the upcoming elections, given the deep divisions in Israeli politics and within the electorate itself.
Keeping the eye on the ball, in the long-term game, has always been Obama's strength (and some would say weakness). If Netanyahu's vision extends only as far as the most recent opinion polls, or the most recent sabre-rattling from Iran's imam's, we should not be surprised that this story would break at this time, only days before voters in Israel go to the polls.
Discretion, in the form of self-imposed silence, from Netanyahu's office seems the only and most appropriate non-response to such a public indictment from such a respected source.

Obama sees Israeli PM Netanyahu as ‘political coward’ who threatens Israel’s survival: report
By Robert Tait, The Daily Telegraph, National Post Wire Services from National Post, January 15, 2013 
Barack Obama sees Benjamin Netanyahu as a “political coward” whose policies pose a greater threat to Israel’s existence than Iran’s nuclear program because he does not know what is in the country’s best interests, it is claimed.
The damning assessment of the Israeli prime minister, relayed by senior White House officials to an American journalist, Jeffrey Goldberg, is the most graphic sign yet of the toxic relationship between the two men, who have clashed continually over the stalled Middle East peace process.
Writing on the Bloomberg website, Goldberg quoted Mr Obama as repeatedly saying, “Israel doesn’t know what its own best interests are” in response to a spate of recent announcements for thousands of new Jewish settler homes in east Jerusalem and the West Bank on land the Palestinians want for a future state.
Mr Obama did not even bother getting angry after hearing of Israel’s decision to build in a highly-sensitive West Bank area called E1 – previously considered off-limits in deference to American pressure.
Instead, he told aides it was the kind of self-defeating behaviour he had come to expect from Mr Netanyahu, according to Goldberg, who is renowned for having close ties to both leaders.
The president believes each new settlement announcement is driving Israel towards a “near total” international isolation that presents a greater long-term threat to its survival than Iran’s nuclear programme, which American and Israeli officials believe is aimed at producing a bomb.
“If Israel, a small state in an inhospitable region, becomes more of a pariah – one that alienates even the affections of the US, its last steadfast friend – it won’t survive,” Goldberg writes, paraphrasing Mr Obama’s words. “Iran poses a short-term threat to Israel’s survival; Israel’s own behaviour poses a long-term one.” Mr Obama also believes the Israeli prime minister is a “political coward” who is incapable of making concessions to the Palestinians because he has “become captive of Jewish settler lobby”.
His faith in Mr Netanyahu has sunk so low that he is unwilling to spend more time on pursuing fresh peace initiatives, despite the enthusiasm of the presumptive new US secretary of state, John Kerry, for new talks.

“What Obama wants is recognition by Netanyahu that Israel’s settlement policies are foreclosing on the possibility of a two-state solution, and he wants Netanyahu to acknowledge that a two-state solution represents the best chance of preserving the country as a Jewish-majority democracy,” Goldberg wrote.
The report coincided with briefings from Israeli officials that Mr Netanyahu will meet Mr Obama in Washington in early March if he retains power after next week’s Israeli general election. It would be the first meeting of the two men for a year. Mr Netanyahu will also address the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), America’s most influential pro-Israeli lobby group, during the visit.
A spokesman for Mr Netanyahu’s office declined to comment on the latest report.

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