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?
JERUSALEM (JTA) – The Obama administration said it would "hold accountable" Israel or the Palestinians should either side undermine trust during renewed peace negotiations.
U.S. State Department spokesman Philip Crowley said in a statement released Sunday that the first round of indirect peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians mediated by the United States had been completed.
The opening of the so-called proximity talks were "serious and wide-ranging," he said.
We've read a lot in the last few days (see this JTA story in the Jewish Week) about President Obama's Jewish charm offensive, which reached a kind of peak with yesterday's White House visit by Elie Wiesel, who proclaimed himself satisfied that the president does not have it in for Israel.
What we don't know: what does this all-out effort to ease the concerns of pro-Israel voters signal about administration policy?
Jewish leaders expect no breakthroughs from Mitchell’s shuttle diplomacy, but say they could bear modest fruit.
James D. Besser
Rarely have peace negotiations started with such low expectations — but that doesn’t mean the indirect “proximity talks” between Israel and the Palestinians, due to begin as early as this week with new rounds of shuttle diplomacy by U.S. special envoy George Mitchell, are doomed to failure.
While suggesting that major breakthroughs are unlikely, many analysts say the talks could prove fruitful, but only if the Obama administration understands the limitations of what the parties themselves can reasonably be expected to do.
A core claim of the pro-Israel movement is coming under intensified attack as shifting Obama administration priorities renew questions about whether Israeli and U.S. interests are automatically in sync.
I had several calls in the past few days expressing emotions ranging from anxiety to rage because of the Obama administration's rumored Middle East peace plan. And that made me wonder about how the other side – and J Street, in particular – will respond to the inevitable firestorm from mainstream pro-Israel groups when and if a plan is unveiled.
Like most other analysts, I'm still trying to figure out the real meaning of Monday's Obama-Netanyahu tete a tete and the bizarre events leading up to it, including the fact the administration reportedly wouldn't agree to a meeting until Obama was in the air.
In a Jewish Week story posted yesterday I cited the views of a number of analysts, but there are still a lot of unanswered questions.