For a head of government to visit the White House and not pose for photographers is rare. For a key ally to be left to his own devices while the President withdraws to have dinner in private was, until this week, unheard of. Yet that is how Benjamin Netanyahu was treated by President Obama on Tuesday night, according to Israeli reports on a trip viewed in Jerusalem as a humiliation.
After failing to extract a written promise of concessions on settlements, Mr Obama walked out of his meeting with Mr Netanyahu but invited him to stay at the White House, consult with advisers and “let me know if there is anything new” a US congressman, who spoke to the Prime Minister, said.
“It was awful,” the congressman said. One Israeli newspaper called the meeting “a hazing in stages”, poisoned by such mistrust that the Israeli delegation eventually left rather than risk being eavesdropped on a White House telephone line. Another said that the Prime Minister had received “the treatment reserved for the President of Equatorial Guinea”.
Left to talk among themselves Mr Netanyahu and his aides retreated to the Roosevelt Room. He spent a further half-hour with Mr Obama and extended his stay for a day of emergency talks to try to restart peace negotiations. However, he left last night with no official statement from either side. He returned to Israel yesterday isolated after what Israeli (LEFT WING) media have called a White House ambush for which he is largely to blame.
Sources said that Mr Netanyahu failed to impress Mr Obama with a flow chart purporting to show that he was not responsible for the timing of announcements of new settlement projects in east Jerusalem. Mr Obama was said to be livid when such an announcement derailed the visit to Israel by Joe Biden, the Vice-President, this month and his anger towards Israel does not appear to have cooled.
Robert Gibbs, the White House press secretary, cast doubt on minor details in Israeli accounts of the meeting but did not deny claims that it amounted to a dressing down for the Prime Minister, whose refusal to freeze settlements is seen in Washington as the main barrier to resuming peace talks.
The Likud leader has to try to square the rigorous demands of the Obama Administration with his nationalist, ultra-Orthodox coalition partners, who want him to stand up to Washington even though Israel needs US backing in confronting the threat of a nuclear Iran.
“The Prime Minister leaves America disgraced, isolated and altogether weaker than when he came,” the (FAR LEFT WING) Israeli daily newspaper Haaretz happily said.
In their meeting Mr Obama set out expectations ULTIMATUM that Israel was to satisfy if it wanted to end the crisis, Israeli sources said. These included an extension of the freeze on Jewish settlement growth beyond the ten-month deadline next September, an end to building projects in east Jerusalem and a withdrawal of Israeli forces to positions held before the second intifada in September 2000.
Mr Obama then suggested that Mr Netanyahu and his staff stay at the White House to consider his proposals so that if he changed his mind he could inform the President right away. “I’m still around,” the daily newspaper Yediot Aharonot quoted Mr Obama as saying. “Let me know if there is anything new.”
With the atmosphere so soured by the end of the evening, the Israelis decided that they could not trust the telephone line they had been lent for their consultations. Mr Netanyahu and Ehud Barak, his Defence Minister, went to the Israeli Embassy to ensure that the Americans were not listening in. TIMES ONLINE
I think BiBi should hand this problem over to the Mossad to settle.
THE OBAMA INTIFADA: What Obama’s belligerence could mean to the rapidly deteriorating America-Israel relations.
The Obama administration has not kept any of its promises to Israel regarding Iran.
The administration has never followed through on its commitment to enact tough sanctions against Iran. According to intelligence reaching Israel (and also Saudi Arabia), the administration is actually pursuing the reverse policy, trying its luck again on engagement with Iran, this time with the Iranian Revolutionary Guards.
• President Obama has begun enforcing an arms embargo against Israel without prior notice.
As soon as Vice President Biden was out of Israel, the president stopped a shipment of JDAM (Joint Direct Attack Munitions) bound for Israel, diverting it the American air force base on Diego Garcia in the Indian Ocean. This betokened the start of an American military embargo to deny Israeli the tools for attacking Iran. According to American military sources, the shipment contained 387 sets of advanced bunker-busting bombs of two types: 195 sets of the BLU-110 model and 192 sets of the BLU-117 model.
• The administration is working actively to bring the Netanyahu government into international isolation.
Jerusalem is convinced the British foreign secretary David Miliband had Washington’s encouragement when he ordered a senior Israeli diplomat, the Mossad representative in London, expelled on the day Netanyahu was received at the White House.
• No right-wing or centrist Israeli government can accept the proposition the Obama administration is trying to hawk that the unresolved Israeli-Palestinian conflict imperils the lives of American troops. This claim is seen in Jerusalem as another blunt weapon misused by Obama to corner Israel into ceding its national security interests when they impinge on the Palestinian issue.
For all these reasons, the Israeli prime minister’s Washington visit landed him in the middle of a major crisis with the administration. It was exacerbated rather than calmed in his meetings on March 23 with President Obama, Vice President Biden and Secretary Clinton. Netanyahu found himself pushed hard against a wall by an administration which he saw would not scruple to bend him – or even break his government – if necessary to meet their objectives. At the same time, Netanyahu determined not to bow as long as his hosts persisted in what he saw as their “irrational behavior.”
Possible outcomes for Israel: Not good
What happens next after the Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s departure from Washington March 25 without a single point of agreement with US president Barack Obama and the traditional friendship buried deep under the discord?
This is not the first time an American president has targeted an Israeli prime minister whom he disliked. Usually, when the president brought all his weight to bear, he was able to contrive the Israeli leader’s fall from power. The late Yitzhak Rabin did not last long after fighting the Middle East policies laid down by Henry Kissinger and Presidents Gerald Ford and Jimmy Carter in the 1970s. He was punished by a public reassessment of US relations with Israel and the secret stoppage of the flow of financial and military assistance.
Netanyahu had a similar experience during his first term in office when, in 1999, he clashed withBill Clinton, who refused to believe Yasser Arafat was preparing to launch large-scale war of terror against Israel. In all these cases, the Israeli voter punished the prime minister for the rift with America by throwing him out of office.
Barack Obama is sure history is on his side. The only difference between then and now is the openness, swiftness and brutality of the means employed by this US president to get rid of Binyamin Netanyahu. The process has only just begun and the hammer and tongs between Washington and Jerusalem is likely to escalate before the crisis is over.
How the MUSLIM POS could tighten the screws
Washington will start by putting its diplomatic, economic and military relations with Israel on ice. Senior US officials will forego their regular visits to Israel and the invitations to Israeli ministers will dry up, including those sent to the Israel embassy for official events. Exchanges will be kept down to inferior bureaucratic levels.
The administration will suspend its customary briefings to Jerusalem on diplomatic and strategic steps in the offing in the Middle East, as well as its hitherto standard practice of prior consultation with Israel on the implications of those steps. In other words, Washington means to cut Israel out of its decision-making processes on Middle East affairs.
Military ties will also be demoted from reciprocal visits by top US and Israel officers to exchanges between lower ranks. Responses to Israeli requests for weapons and replacement parts and US notifications of new weapons in development will be frozen. After stating solemnly time and again that no US government will go back on its commitment to Israel’s security and defense needs, Obama administration officials cannot afford to officially admit the relations are in limbo. They will just stonewall on Israeli requests by saying: “No answer yet.”
Israel’s UN delegation and its representatives in international forums are in for a hard time. US ambassadors will give them the cold shoulder and, instead of vetoing or abstaining from voting on hostile UN measures and condemnations of Israel, they will vote for them, especially when they favor the Palestinians. This will open the dam gates for a flood of anti-Israel resolutions. American financial institutions, banks and military industries will be encouraged to follow the White House lead in ostracizing the Jewish state.
The only area of cooperation to be left untouched is intelligence, DEBKA-Net-Weekly’s intelligence sources predict. Intelligence-sharing is not just a keystone of US-Israeli relations, but even the White House realizes that any interruption in the operation of their joint systems would seriously imperil both countries.
How might Israel respond?
Prime Minister Netanyahu has no illusions about the relative might of the United States and Israel and the former’s overwhelming capacity to harm the Jewish state’s vital interests. He will try applying soft soap for a time and pretending to the Israeli public that he is making progress in solving the crisis in relations.
But behind this front, he will work hard to shift the confrontation to the domestic US and Israeli political realms where he is more confident.
In the United States, Netanyahu will try and capitalize on the warm welcome he received on Capitol Hill Wednesday, March 24 – in contrast to his rough treatment at the White House. He will use this opening to rally US lawmakers for the application of counter-pressure to make President Obama back down from his harsh treatment of the Israeli government.
Knowing the ability of the two houses of Congress to force their will on the President in executive matters is slight, he will try and mobilize American Jewry for support and hope to persuade Jewish donors to withhold their contributions from the Democratic Party. At home, the Israeli prime minister may try and expand his government, establishing a national unity administration to head off the White House campaign to unseat him in an early general election.
He holds a card stronger than any held by his predecessors when they found themselves in a US president’s sights – and that is Iran. With nothing more to lose from the Obama administration, he would be assured of broad popular support if he decided to embark on a military operation against Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s nuclear sites. After the way he was treated in Washington, he would no longer feel obliged to consult with or even notify the Obama administration in advance.
The late Prime Minister Menahem Begin, who fell out with Ronald Reagan, overrode this US president’s objections and ordered the Israel Air Force to bomb the French-built Iraqi nuclear reactor near Baghdad. A month later, he won re-election at the polls. Such action by the Netanyahu government would throw President Obama’s Middle East calculus into disarray and make him rethink his attitude toward Jerusalem.