Is confrontation looming between premier Netanyahu and president Obama?

Zal president Obama opgewassen zijn tegen de rechtse regering van Israel en de machtige zionistische (Pro-Groot)Israel lobby in eigen land? De eerste schermutselingen over ‘het vredesproces’ vinden plaats, waarbij Obama vasthoudt aan de twee-statenoplossing – die Netanyahu verwerpt.

"Israel does not take orders from [Barack] Obama," Environmental Protection Minister Gilad Erdan (Likud) said on Monday, responding to an earlier statement by the US president in which he reaffirmed his administration’s commitment to all previous understandings between Israel and the Palestinians, including the process launched at Annapolis, Maryland, in 2007.

Erdan, who is also the liaison between the cabinet and the Knesset, praised Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman (Israel Beiteinu), who only last week said Israel was not bound by the Annapolis talks because it had never been approved by the cabinet or the Knesset.

"In voting for [Prime Minister Binyamin] Netanyahu the citizens of Israel have decided that they will not become the US’s 51st state," said Erdan, who was representing the coalition in a Knesset discussion of Lieberman’s controversial statements. He added, however, that "Obama is a friend of Israel and the United States is an important ally, and everything between us will be the result of communication."..

Erdan: Israel not taking orders from Obama (By GIL HOFFMAN, HERB KEINON AND JERUSALEM POST STAFF )

President Barack Obama says Washington remains committed to Israelis and Palestinians living side by side based on a two-state solution.

"In the Middle East, we share the goal of a lasting peace between Israel and its neighbors. Let me be clear: The United States strongly supports the goal of two states, Israel and Palestine, living side by side in peace and security," Obama said during a special address to the Turkish parliament on Monday.

In an apparent message to Israel’s new rightist government, Obama demanded that both sides adhere to their Road Map and Annapolis Conference obligations.

"That is a goal shared by Palestinians, Israelis, and people of good will around the world. That is a goal that the parties agreed to in the Roadmap and at Annapolis. And that is a goal that I will actively pursue as president," he commented.

The US President emphasized that both Israelis and Palestinians must take the steps that are necessary to build confidence. He nevertheless did not specify the required moves.

The statements marked Obama’s first response to belligerent comments made by incoming Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman in his induction speech.

Last week, Lieberman said that Israel was changing its policies on the peace process and was not bound by previous commitments made at a 2007 gathering in Annapolis, Maryland. His anti-Arab rhetoric has alarmed Palestinians and Arab leaders in the region…

‘US strongly supports two-state solution’ (PressTV)

In an unprecedented move, the Obama administration is readying for a possible confrontation with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu by briefing Democratic congressmen on the peace process and the positions of the new government in Israel regarding a two-state solution.

The Obama administration is expecting a clash with Netanyahu over his refusal to support the establishment of a Palestinian state alongside Israel.

In recent weeks, American officials have briefed senior Democratic congressmen and prepared the ground for the possibility of disagreements with Israel over the peace process, according to information recently received. The administration’s efforts are focused on President Barack Obama’s Democratic Party, which now holds a majority in both the Senate and the House of Representatives.

The preemptive briefing is meant to foil the possibility that Netanyahu may try to bypass the administration by rallying support in Congress.

The message that administration officials have relayed to the congressmen is that President Obama is committed to the security of Israel and intends to continue the military assistance agreement that was signed by his predecessor, George W. Bush.

However, Obama considers the two-state solution central to his Middle East policy, as he reiterated during a speech in Turkey on Monday, and he intends to ask that Netanyahu fulfill all the commitments made by previous governments in Israel: accepting the principle of a Palestinian state; freezing settlement activity; evacuating illegal outposts; and providing economic and security assistance to the Palestinian Authority.

Administration officials made it clear to congressmen that the Palestinians will also be required to fulfill their obligations in line with the road map and the Annapolis process. ..

Obama team readying for confrontation with Netanyahu (By Aluf Benn in Haaretz)

Jordan’s King Abdullah II said Monday that an Arab peace initiative offers a solution for peace in the Middle East, adding that Israel should use the opportunity or risk ongoing conflict in the region.

"Israel must decide whether they want to observe this opportunity and become integrated in the region or whether they want to remain a fortress … and keep the Middle East hostage in conflict," Abdullah said in Bucharest, during an official visit.

The king met Romanian President Traian Basescu Monday and discussed bilateral issues and the urgent need for peace in the Middle East.

The 2002 Saudi initiative offers Israel recognition by all Arab countries in exchange for withdrawal from territory captured in the 1967 Six-Day War, the establishment of an independent Palestinian state with East Jerusalem as its capital and a just solution to the problem of Palestinian refugees…

‘Israel holding Mideast hostage by shunning Arab peace offer’ (AP)

..After their humiliating defeat in the 2008 presidential and congressional elections, the vanquished neoconservative legions won a major political victory in one of the provinces of the American empire when the parliamentary election in Israel brought to power a veteran neocon activist. He is calling on Washington to forget about changing U.S. policy in the Middle East and prepare for a military confrontation with Iran…

Initially, the neoconservatives envisioned a grander strategy…

l They were confident that mating the American Empire with a Greater Israel remained a viable option under President McCain and—God willing!—Prime Minster Netanyahu. But then McCain lost to a man of Muslim ancestry whose middle name was “Hussein.” Worse, as Atlantic journalist Jeffrey Goldberg fretted, he didn’t seem to have it in his “kishke” or “gut” when it came to Israel. Obama was willing to withdraw from Iraq, engage Iran, and work hard to achieve an Israel-Palestine peace accord—in short, to challenge the neoconservatives’ first principles.

With Mac not back and Obama in the White House—after winning the majority of American-Jewish votes—it became clear that the American groom would not be showing up for the anticipated wedding. Yet the Bush administration’s last foreign-policy decision—giving Israel a green light to launch a devastating assault on the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip—helped ignite ultra-nationalist and anti-Arab sentiments among the majority of Israelis. This produced a mini earthquake in Israeli politics, changing the balance of power in the Israeli Knesset from 70-50 in favor of the center-left bloc to 65-55 for the Right, ultra-Right, and religious Right parties. Although Netanyahu’s nationalist Likud Party took only second place in the election, behind the more centrist Kadima Party led by Tzipi Livni, which finished first by a miniscule margin, he was able to win the backing of all the 65 members of the right-wing bloc, including the ultra-Orthodox Shas Party and extreme Yisrael Beitenu Party of Avigdor Lieberman, ensuring that he will become the next Israeli PM.

The political and ideological love affair between Netanyahu and the neocons goes back to the Reagan presidency and the last years of the Cold War, when Bibi was serving first as Israel’s representative to the United Nations and later as his country’s ambassador to Washington. The first generation of neoconservative intellectuals—Richard Perle, Jeane Kirkpatrick, Elliott Abrams, Kenneth Adelman, and Max Kampleman—were occupying top foreign-policy positions in the Reagan administration. To the ruling Likud Party, the policies of the Republican Party seemed to offer Israel time to consolidate its hold on the West Bank and Gaza as it encouraged Washington to view the Arab-Israeli conflict through a Cold War lens and to identify Palestinian nationalism as an extension of Soviet-induced international terrorism. In that context, Washington could view Israel’s occupation of Palestinian lands with benign neglect…

A reminder: the policies promoted by Likud and its neocon allies in Washington resulted in major costs for both Israel and the United States. The Israeli invasion of Lebanon in 1982 and the Iran-Contra affair were among the harmful products, while the first Intifadah highlighted the destructive consequences of placing the Palestinian issue on the back burner.

Netanyahu returned to Israel, just as the Cold War was ending and Reagan was leaving office, to serve first as foreign minister and later as prime minister. He proved masterful in replacing the moribund Soviet threat with a new Middle Eastern bogeyman, persuading many Americans that with the Soviet Union gone, Israel could help protect U.S. interests in the Middle East against Arab nationalists (Saddam Hussein), Muslim fundamentalists (the mullahs in Iran), and the PLO, which was transformed in the Likud-neocon spin from a radical left-wing to a radical Islamic terrorist group.

George H.W. Bush and his realist foreign-policy advisers didn’t buy into this narrative and decided to confront the Likud government over the issue of the Jewish settlements in the West Bank. That tough American approach antagonized the neocons while weakening Likud, which ended up losing the parliamentary election in 1992 to the Labor Party and its leader, Yitzchak Rabin.

Another reminder: Netanyahu, a strident opponent of the successful efforts by the Rabin-led government to reach a peace agreement with the PLO, culminating in the Oslo Process, played a major role in mobilizing Israeli opinion against the peace process. This included incitement against Rabin—who Likud propaganda likened to Hitler—which created the conditions for his assassination by an Israeli-Jewish terrorist and eventually for Netanyahu’s election as PM in 1995.

“On July 8, 1996, Benjamin Netanyahu, Israel’s newly elected prime minister and the leader of its right-wing Likud Party, paid a visit to the neoconservative luminary Richard Perle in Washington, D.C.,” journalist Craig Unger wrote in Vanity Fair in March 2007. “The subject of their meeting was a policy paper that Perle and other analysts had written for an Israeli-American think tank, the Institute for Advanced Strategic Political Studies. Titled ‘A Clean Break: A New Strategy for Securing the Realm,’ the paper contained the ‘kernel of a breathtakingly radical vision for a new Middle East.’”

By waging wars against Iraq, Syria, and Lebanon, the paper proposed, Israel and the U.S. could stabilize the region. But President Bill Clinton didn’t sign on. Instead, he tried to slow down efforts by the Israeli prime minister to kill the peace process, which helped ignite Palestinian rage that led eventually to the second Intifadah. Clinton’s successor, George W. Bush, gave a green light to the Israelis to suppress the Intifadah and went to implement the strategy proposed in “A Clean Break.” No need to add a reminder about how that sad chapter ended.

Netanyahu ran this time on a platform of burying the corpse of the peace process and continuing construction of more Jewish settlements in the West Bank. Forget about negotiating a two-state solution with the Palestinians. Instead, he has been advancing a plan for an “economic peace” under which Israel, together with the Americans and the Europeans, would create an island of prosperity for the Palestinians, a Middle Eastern Hong Kong. In return, they would be persuaded to give up their aspirations for political freedom. Meanwhile, Netanyahu maintains his commitment to put an end to Iran’s nuclear military program, even if military power—preferably American military power—is required to achieve that “existential goal.”

Had there been no crippling financial crisis and had McCain been elected president, Netanyahu might well have been successful in integrating his Greater Israel project and plans to strike Iran into a new neoconservative strategic plan drawn up by Secretary of State Joe Lieberman and National Security Adviser Robert Kagan. But in the real world of 2009, the man occupying the White House has called for negotiations with Iran and Syria and has reiterated his commitment to revive the peace process, with America serving as honest broker. And our economic problems certainly make it difficult for Washington to join the Israelis in new military adventures in the Middle East.

Some pundits are speculating that Netanyahu will do a “Nixon goes to China,” recalling that late Israeli prime minister and Likud leader Menachem Begin signed a peace agreement with Egypt. Netanyahu is going to visit China at some point—but don’t expect him to go through an ideological metamorphosis.

Instead, he will probably activate his old neocon troops, led by Fox News and the Wall Street Journal editorial page and joined by Republicans on Capitol Hill. He will ask them to launch a major offensive against the “appeaser” in the White House, hoping to bring political pressure first on the Democrats on Capitol Hill and then on President Obama to demonstrate that he has it in his “kishke” when it comes to Israel. Obama could surprise him by proving that he does have it in his gut—by saying no to Netanyahu, a move that would be a blessing to both Israel and the United States.

Leon Hadar is a Cato Institute research fellow in foreign-policy studies and author, most recently, of Sandstorm: Policy Failure in the Middle East.

A Match Made in Tel Aviv – Will Netanyahu and the neocons live happily ever after? (By Leon Hadar in The American Conservative / ICH)

The appointment of Lieberman as Israeli Foreign Minister borders on the insane

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