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Top Story — Netanyahu and Obama Agree, Israel’s Right to Self-Defense is Sacrosanct, Meets with Abbas *Updates*

President Barack Obama talks with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu as they walk across the tarmac at Ben Gurion International Airport in Tel Aviv, Israel, March 20, 2013. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

President Barack Obama talks with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu as they walk across the tarmac at Ben Gurion International Airport in Tel Aviv, Israel, March 20, 2013. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

“Netanyahu has been able to get a bump every time he says no to the president. When he upbraided him in the Oval Office, he got a 10 percent rise in the Israeli public opinion. That is unheard of,” said Martin Indyk, Bill Clinton’s ambassador to Israel, during a roundtable discussion in Washington last week. “Netanyahu, [who] eats polls for breakfast, he knows very well what the standing of the president is and what his own standing is,” said Indyk, who predicted “a more pliant Netanyahu” more open to Obama’s suggestions on settlements and Palestine. [Politico]

THIS WILL come as no surprise to anyone except those people who never understood President Obama’s stance on settlements was as much for Israeli safety as it was for Palestinian rights.

President Obama, however, has his limits.

But there was also a sticking point. Last week, Peres agreed to take a petition to the U.S. president from leading Israeli intellectuals and public figures asking for the release of Jonathan Jay Pollard, currently serving his 28th year of a life sentence for spying against the U.S. A spokesman for the office of the Israeli president confirmed to The Daily Beast that Peres presented the petition to President Obama and the two discussed the matter. Obama, however, did not budge, according to two other Israeli officials. The president already last week told an Israeli television station that he would not release Pollard at this moment. Perhaps it shows that there are limits even to the closest of friendships. [The Daily Beast]

The only thing that matters is that Israel will continue to get massive military aid, backed by an assurance from a second term President Obama, with no political motive in sight, that he backs the defensive right of Israel, “by itself for itself,” being a critical way for Prime Minister Netanyahu to put it that means Israel needs no one’s permission to do what they feel is needed in a treacherous Middle East where they often stand alone.

Eli Lake has the report.

When asked by NBC’s Chuck Todd why so many Israelis did not seem to like Obama, Netanyahu said he would hope the people of his country would “get to know Obama, the way I know Obama.”

Netanyahu also affirmed that his new government is fully committed to negotiating a two-state solution with the Palestinians. This might be news to some members of the more right-wing parties that have supported more building within settlements on the West Bank, a policy opposed by successive U.S. administrations.

But most importantly, Netanyahu said he trusts President Obama when it comes to Iran. “I am absolutely convinced that the president is determined to prevent Iran from getting nuclear weapons,” he said. “I also appreciate the fact that the president has reaffirmed more than any other president Israel’s right and duty to defend itself, by itself for itself. That sums up our common view.”

President Obama has arrived in Ramallah. From the pool report [minor typographical glitches amended]:

The arrival was an open press event after we were told it was pool only. President Abbas walked towards POTUS’s motorcade to greet him on a red carpet accompanied by few advisers. A huge banner hang on a wall facing the President’s limo read “Palestinian State”, next to it the word UN on printed pictures of President Yasser Arafat and President Abbas. POTUS and President Abbas viewed the guards of honor after a military band played both US and Palestinian national anthems. POTUS walked towards the Palestinian delegation led by Prime minister Salam Fayad , they exchanged few words but too far from reporters to hear. Among the Palestinians greeting the POTUS was Taieb abdul Rahim, general advisor to the President, Saeb Erikat, chief negotiator, and Maen Erikat, Palestinian representative to the US. The Palestinians greeting POTUS were 21 in total according to a list of names I saw. On the American delegation, Secretary Kerry and Micheal Rantney the US consular general were spotted.

The band kept playing national songs and a special one for Ramallah long after POTUS and President Abbas departed.

UPDATE 2: Obama made a direct peace appeal to the Israeli people in speech to Israeli university students in Jerusalem. Reuters:

President Barack Obama appealed directly on Thursday to the Israeli people to put themselves in the shoes of stateless Palestinians and recognize that Jewish settlement activity in occupied territory hurts prospects for peace.

In a showcase speech in Jerusalem to Israeli university students, Obama coupled his plea with an acknowledgement of the Jewish state’s security concerns in a region destabilized by the West’s nuclear standoff with Iran and civil war in Syria

But he urged Israel’s younger generation to demand that their politicians take risks for peace in an address interrupted frequently by applause, including a standing ovation for the president during a brief outburst by a heckler.

“You must create the change that you want to see,” he told his youthful audience.

[...] “Given the demographics west of the Jordan River, the only way for Israel to endure and thrive as a Jewish and democratic state is through the realization of an independent and viable Palestine,” he said.

UPDATE: The best description of what’s going on during this trip was given by Jeffrey Goldberg, who called the visit “Operation Desert Schmooze.”

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16 Responses to Top Story — Netanyahu and Obama Agree, Israel’s Right to Self-Defense is Sacrosanct, Meets with Abbas *Updates*

  1. mjsmith March 21, 2013 at 9:38 am #

    Netanyahu tried this same kind of release Pollard crap before. Last time he said if we release Pollard, he would sign on to the peace process. President Clinton did not give in to his demands then and President Obama should not give in now. Jonathan Jay Pollard should be sent back after he is dead, I think that is pretty fair.

    When President Obama gave his “Cairo Speach”, I was impressed. I really liked what he had to say. A friend of mine made me repeat that 3 times because he could not believe I was capable of saying anything nice about him. I looks like that speach was meaningless. Palestinians today see the reality of what is going on. Obama is clearly not willing to take the political hit that would be involved with standing up to Netanyahu. There is a strong, on paper, commitment to Israel. There is nothing for the Palestinians except a speach. This time around, not many buyers.

    • mjsmith March 21, 2013 at 9:39 am #


  2. Taylor Marsh March 21, 2013 at 10:46 am #

    It is categorically unfair to suggest President Obama can’t “stand up to” Prime Minister Netanyahu. Obama took “the political hit” initially when he began his criticisms on settlements, which lasted through the 2012 election cycle.

    But you’ll get no argument from me that Netanyahu has been the problem. His latest election proved, however, he’s got big domestic problems at home.

    What so many people refuse to accept at this point in time is that if Israel won’t commit to ending settlements there can be no conversation on peace.

    This journey of Obama’s is exactly what Jeffrey Goldberg wrote “Operation Desert Schmooze,” which begins with Obama cajoling both sides, because THEY don’t want to come to the table to talk.

    Obama can’t make anyone do anything they don’t want to do. Why people can’t understand that after Clinton’s debacle with Arafat I have no idea.

    • ael March 22, 2013 at 10:03 am #

      Obama’s comment about “demographics west of the Jordan river” is a hair breadth away from saying that too many of the wrong (ethnicity/race) of babies are being born in greater Israel.

      Are not politicians who say that too many latino/black babies are being born condemned for racism?

  3. angels81 March 21, 2013 at 11:21 am #

    Taylor, I think a lot of us do understand that Obama can’t make anyone do what they refuse to do. Commenting to someone who has little credibility when it comes to the President is useless. On the one hand he try’s to say something nice about Obama and then in the next sentence takes it all back and blames the President. Some will never even try to understand because it goes against their dislike for Obama.

    • Taylor Marsh March 21, 2013 at 1:11 pm #

      Wanted to say it, angels81, not just for one person, but for all, to reiterate.

      Also re: Ramsgate’s comment below, the topic is Israel and the Palestinians, not Congress. Even people with convictions sometimes have to compromise or be faced with losing it all, which certainly applies to foreign policy.

      Ramsgate did a riff and wandered, and I understand the frustrations believe me. But comments not on topic will be deleted.

      • jinbaltimore March 21, 2013 at 1:27 pm #

        confused about which Ramsgate comment was deleted?

        Also, of course, comments that allege to speak to another commenter’s motives for lack of any rebuttal to the actual comment made…those are, of course, on topic…Hee hee!

        • Taylor Marsh March 21, 2013 at 1:31 pm #

          Your comment about OFA and some fantasy $500,000 donation is an insult to the serious topic at hand, while at least Ramsgate made a serious correlation.

          I’ve deleted your OFA comment twice, but will leave up the comment above, though like the first one it shows no attempt at taking the issue seriously.

  4. Ramsgate March 21, 2013 at 12:17 pm #

    “Obama can’t make anyone do anything they don’t want to do”

    Oh Really?

    He does not seem to have a problem with the spineless Democrats/Progressives in congress. They are prepared to buckle and give him anything he wants at the drop of a pin. Even Kucinich caved and voted for Health Care Reform after pledging he’d vote NO, if it did not contain a public option. Not to mention Harry Reid.

    So, revision: “Obama can’t make people with conviction do anything they don’t want to do.”

  5. mjsmith March 21, 2013 at 12:49 pm #

    It is tough. I do agree that it is unfair to blame a President for failing to resolve the Israeli/Palestinian issue. To get both sides to do things that they both absolutly refuse to do is the reality. To get these sides to do the unspeakable comprimises that are required for a two-state solution is where the USA’s job begins. A two state solution is in the USA’s best interest, as well as the Israeli’s and Palestinian’s best interests. It is inevitable that a “one-state” solution will mean more of the same, which really sucks. A one state solution will also mean that Israel will no longer be a “Jewish State” and its main identity. It will become a minority ruled government, similar to how South Africa was, in our lifetime.

  6. Taylor Marsh March 21, 2013 at 1:20 pm #

    See my second update, mjsmith. Obama made a direct appeal to Israel university students for peace, which can only mean a two-state solution, nothing less.

    • mjsmith March 21, 2013 at 2:20 pm #

      Read update and the reuters article as well. I feel it is safe to say moving forward that Obama is NOT interested in the destruction of Israel. It sickens me to no end when he is unfairly accused of this. Obama took specific steps towards Israels security. Which is good. Now that we got that out of the way, lets move forward on the peace process.

      The extremists that want Israel wiped off the map and also the extremists that sincerely feel “there is nosuch thing as a Palestinian” need to be taken out of the equation. They do not represent a majority of Arab or Israeli views.

  7. jjamele March 22, 2013 at 11:18 am #

    I would add another group to the list of people who are extremists without even realizing it- people who think that “The Right of Israel to self-defense is sacrosanct.” Excuse me, but it is not. Israel’s right to self-defense does not include brutalizing members of it’s own population, creating an apartheid system within it’s own borders, or raining death by missile down on innocent villagers in retaliation for attacks committed by others. NO Nation’s “Right” to self-defense is Sacrosanct- if it is, then every government on Earth can do whatever it wants to do in the name of self-defense, be it occupy weaker nations and impose new governments on them, drop drones on them, or steal their natural resources.

    Nations are not Sacred. The lives of INDIVIDUALS are.

.... a writer is someone who takes the universal whore of language
and turns her into a virgin again.  ~ erica jong