A Daily Analysis
By Marc Schulman
Sept 21, 2009 Joint Meeeting Between Obama, Netanyahu and Abbas Tomorrow
Much to everyone's surprise, over the weekend the White House announced that there would be a three way meeting between President Obama, Palestinian leader Abbas and Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu at the UN tomorrow. Expectations are low, especially since no significant progress had been made in the recent week during Senator Mitchell's visit to the Middle East. Despite the lack of progress, the Obama administration pushed for the meeting with the President seemingly believing that his very presence could push the two sides closer together. I am not sure why he believes that if can not get Democrats and Republicans to agree on any significant area of health care he can get Israelis and Palestinians to agree on peace, but we will see.
The Prime Minister's office has been touting the meeting as accomplishment for Netanyahu; he did not give ground, did not agree to settlement freeze and thus forced the Palestinians and the Obama administration to give in. One commentator stated, "He taught the new American administration a lesson". There can be no doubt that from a tactical Israeli political point of view Netanyahu has been very successful, but from a strategic point of view it's more questionable.
One issue is that according to Netanyahu the most important threat that is facing Israel is the Iranian threat. If that is true, then having a close relationship with a strong American President is one of the most important things that an Israeli Prime Minister can do to achieve Israel’s goals. Instead Netanyahu does not have a relationship with Obama. Supposedly they have not spoken in months and there clearly is not warmth there. His actions have certainly not endeared him to anyone in the administrations, and when those close to him state that they have taught Obama a lesson, they are certainly not endearing Netanyahu to Obama. The second issue is that Israel has had a major strategic challenge in ensuring that Hamas does not gain control of the West Bank. Showing how weak Abbas is certainly undermines those goals. Netanyahu is a different Prime Minster than he was during his previous time in office. He has learned his lessons well on how to maintain peace in his coalition- he may be doing that, however, at the price of undermining Israel’s strategic goals