Key Moment For The Future Of The Middle East
The President and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu are meeting at this hour about a series of issues pertaining to Israel, Palestine and the Greater Middle East. Conflicting reports have stated that Netanyahu either will or will not support the two-state solution that Western leaders, including President Obama, have backed. We'll know soon enough. But we can follow the actions taken by the Likud government and know where Netanyahu really stands.
Israel has moved ahead with a plan to build a new settlement in the northern West Bank for the first time in 26 years, pursuing a project the United States has already condemned as an obstacle to peace efforts. The move comes on the eve of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s first meeting with U.S. President Barack Obama, despite Western calls for Israel to halt its settlement activity. [...]
The initiative began three years ago, under the auspices of then-defense minister Amir Peretz, who promised to transform a former army outpost into a permanent settlement for evacuees from the Gaza Strip. The move was then frozen due to American insistence.
You can do the math for yourself and realize that this was a plan George Bush's Administration protested. Now Netanyahu has clearly planned to revive it. The timing here is obvious.
Juan Cole talked about today's meeting as akin to a Kennedy-Khrushchev summit, with just as many repercussions. Obama and Netanyahu have serious differences and different political needs. We won't know the answer to this today. But if Obama can insist on his vision of Middle East policies (and he has the bargaining power, in the form of billions in foreign aid, to do just that), we actually have a chance to salvage the intractable challenges there and even progress toward peace. If Obama accommodates, we'll see more suffering and more war. It's as simple as that.