Barack Obama and Benjamin Netanyahu got together to cement the terms of their breakup today, although they stressed that they “still care deeply for one another” and “will always remain the closest of friends.” Or, in DC-speak, they “stressed their areas of common ground”:
“It’s no secret that the prime minister and I have had a strong disagreement on this narrow issue,” said Mr. Obama, seated beside Mr. Netanyahu in the Oval Office at the start of the meeting, their first in more than a year. “But we don’t have a disagreement on the need to making sure Iran does not get a nuclear weapon, and we don’t have a disagreement about us blunting destabilizing activities in Iran that may be taking place,” he added. “And so, we’re going to be looking to make sure we find common ground there.”
Mr. Netanyahu, who has choreographed his visit to Washington in part to mend fences with the Obama administration and Democrats who were alienated by his aggressive tactics in lobbying against the nuclear deal, did not mention the accord during a short appearance, in which the two leaders did not take any questions from reporters. But he had warm words for the president, and said he shared Mr. Obama’s goal of eventually resolving the conflict between Israelis and Palestinians with a two-state solution.
“We’re with each other in more ways than one, and I want to thank you for this opportunity to strengthen our friendship, which is strong, strengthen our alliance, which is strong,” Mr. Netanyahu said.
And that’s exactly what they did. Specifically, they focused on the common ground wherein Netanyahu wants more American military aid, and Obama thinks it’s good domestic politics to give it to him:
US President Barack Obama and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Monday tentatively agreed to an increase in American military aid to Israel and the establishment of a joint task force on Iran’s nuclear program, Channel 2 reported.
In a closed-door meeting that Netanyahu’s aides described as “good,” the two leaders reportedly agreed on an increase to Israeli defense aid, both immediately and in the coming decade. The particulars, however, still need to be hammered out by Washington.
Hot damn! Now the next time Hamas lobs a couple of rockets into an Israeli desert, Netanyahu will really be able to fuck Gaza up. I mean, more than it already is.
The truth about the Obama-Netanyahu relationship in every respect other than military aid was made public by the White House last week, when it announced that any chances for an Israel-Palestine peace deal (LOL) sometime during the remainder of Obama’s term (LLOOLL) were officially kaput. The Obama administration has given up on Netanyahu, and would very much just like to pass him and the whole Israel-Palestine issue off onto the next administration. That they’re hoping that next administration will belong to Hillary Clinton mostly explains the expanded military aid.
That move to drop the peace process wasn’t exactly out of left field. If the writing on the Israel-Palestine wall wasn’t clear already, then Netanyahu certainly clarified it during the Knesset election earlier this year, when he declared the “two-state solution” dead and then panicked his base with visions of Arab-Israelis exercising their right to vote (OH GOD NOT THAT). It’s one thing to think that your ally is a bigot who has no intention of ever being anything more than an obstacle to peace, and it’s another for your ally to actually come out and say those things explicitly. It’s much harder to pretend otherwise when they actually admit it. And for those out there who would like to see the administration take a much harder line toward Israel in its last year and change, I empathize with you, but it ain’t happening. This is about as bad as US-Israel relations can get, right now, and Israel still managed to squeeze additional military aid out of this visit.
The Palestinians haven’t exactly been great partners for peace either, to be sure, although that’s partly because there’s literally nobody of any prominence actually speaking for them at this point. Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas is basically the Mayor of Ramallah, and I bet you’d find a lot of people living in Ramallah who would dispute even that. He punted his last chance to win back any popular support at the UN General Assembly session in September, when he promised a bombshell of a speech and delivered a tiny firecracker instead. The lack of a unifying (and competent) Palestinian leader is perhaps the single biggest impediment to peace talks apart from Netanyahu himself, but because a strong Palestinian leader could be as much a threat to Israel as a potential negotiating partner, the Israelis will continue to do everything in their power to prevent such a leader from arising. In that sense, Netanyahu and Abbas (who also doesn’t want to see any new Palestinian leadership, for obvious reasons) are a well-matched pair.
Meanwhile, Netanyahu isn’t even trying to show basic civility to Obama anymore. How else can you explain his decision to appoint the founder of a right-wing Israeli news outlet, a guy named Ron Baratz, as his new spokesman, when Baratz has in the past called Obama an anti-Semite and said that John Kerry “has the mental abilities of at 12 year old”? Hypothetically, if Paul Ryan were to appoint Glenn Beck as his new press secretary, would you imagine that Speaker Ryan was interested in actually having a cordial relationship with the Obama administration for the next 15 months, or nah? That’s basically what Netanyahu has done with Baratz.
In keeping with the farcical spirit of today’s meeting, Netanyahu went on at some length about his “hope for peace.” I mean, when everybody in the room knows that this whole event is a joke, why not send them home on a real knee-slapper, right?
“I want to make it clear that we have not given up our hope for peace — we’ll never give up our hope for peace,” Mr. Netanyahu added. “And I remain committed to a vision of peace of two states for two peoples, a demilitarized Palestinian state that recognizes the Jewish state.”
Maybe what he meant was that he remains committed to seeing that “two states for two peoples” remains nothing more than a vision. Certainly a quick glance at the map says that’s what he really meant.
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