What we know after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's Washington visit this week: both the Israeli leader and President Obama have decided that for various reasons it's best not to be quarreling, especially in public. Both have a strong vested interest in restoring the public trappings of the “special” U.S.-Israel relationship.
The problem is what we don't know; the pomp-rich visit leaves us with more questions than answers:
It was only a month or so ago that Israel’s relationship with the United States government was in serious trouble. First it was the visit of Vice-President Biden to Israel that was marred by Israel’s ill-timed announcement of new housing starts in East Jerusalem. President Obama was said to be furious. Then it was Israel’s handling of the Gaza flotilla that seemed to anger everyone in the world who was awake and breathing at the time.
Bibi-Obama meeting high on atmospherics, low on specifics going forward.
James D. Besser
President Barack Obama and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu staged a diplomatic dance in Washington on Tuesday meant to show the world — and their respective constituencies — that they are still in step.
But the carefully choreographed atmospherics belied potential difficulties ahead and many unanswered questions, starting with these: will President Barack Obama stick to his stated goal of moving aggressively on the Israeli-Palestinian front despite a plateful of international and domestic political problems?
U.S.-Israel summits are generally pretty predictable affairs, but today's Barack Obama – Benjamin Netanyahu meeting takes the honey cake.
A kiss-and-make-up session, we learned weeks ago. A chance for Netanyahu to demonstrate all the “unprecedented” things he's done to advance the peace process, to use a word that pro-Israel groups here can't seem to get enough of. An opportunity for Obama, chastened by the intense political reaction to his earlier dealing with Netanyahu, to show he's a nice guy who really likes Israel and can get along with Netanyahu.
President Obama, coming off a handful of important legislative victories, hinted today in a major speech that he might try his hand at legislation on the third rail of American politics – immigration reform.
That's good news for Jewish groups like the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society (HIAS) and the American Jewish Committee, as well as a coalition of some 600 faith leaders that gathered at the White House today and delivered a letter urging strong action to pass legislation that “both protects our interests and abides by our values” before the end of the year.
President Obama, cool and detached and still sounding more like a professor than a president, remains a mystery to many analysts. In today's Washington Post, columnist Richard Cohen takes a stab at psychoanalyzing the chief executive, and the results are interesting.
Update: the folks at Americans for Peace Now point out that I missed a key finding of the B'nai B'rith survey. APN spokesman Ori Nir, in a press release, points out that "a full 55 percent agreed" with the statement "A two-state solution to the Israel-Palestinian conflict is essential to Israel's survival as a national home of the Jewish people as a vibrant democracy."
New round of questions over whether Israel is liability to U.S.
James D. Besser
A relationship built on the notion that Israel is a critical U.S. strategic asset may be weakening as more and more analysts in both countries argue that the Jewish state is becoming more of a foreign policy liability.
So far that view has not penetrated Israel’s overwhelming support in Congress, and all but the most partisan Jewish leaders say it hasn’t affected Obama administration policy. On the contrary, there was evidence strategic cooperation was deepening even before President Barack Obama’s recent Jewish charm offensive.
Days after being designated the Democratic candidate for New York’s junior U.S. Senate seat, and a day after Israel’s deadly raid on the Mavi Marmara ship, Kirsten Gillibrand visited The Jewish Week to discuss the latest news and issues. Gilliband, 43, was a member of the House of Representatives from upstate, representing parts of the Adirondacks, Catskills and Hudson Valley when she was appointed by Gov. David Paterson to fill the Senate seat vacated by Hillary Clinton.