H/t to M.J. Rosenberg for noting one of the most amazing newspaper reports coming out of Israel in months, if not several years. Yediot Achronot reports (quotations are taken from a translation not available online and supplied by Benor Consulting) that Rahm Emanuel astonishingly promised a major American Jewish leader that Barack Obama will see the creation of a Palestinian state before the end of his first term:
Israel recently received reports about a conversation that Emanuel held with a Jewish leader in Washington. In the course of that conversation the White House chief-of-staff said: “In the next four years there is going to be a permanent status arrangement between Israel and the Palestinians on the basis of two states for two peoples, and it doesn’t matter to us at all who is prime minister.” Emanuel…is of the opinion that aggressive action needs to be taken in order to force Israel and the Palestinians to reach an agreement and “to move onto the next issue,” as a Washington official put it.
The Obama administration has been sending clear messages lately that President Obama has no intention of waiting two years until Netanyahu crystallizes a vision on the future negotiations with the Palestinians. Senior American officials said that former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and former Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni already established an outline solution that has been accepted by the international community.
I have been waiting 40 years to see a president do what needs to be done regarding Israeli intransigence and unwillingness to negotiate an end to the conflict. While an unsourced report in an Israeli newspaper is not the most credible source, if even half of this Yediot report is true Obama will be the president of my dreams, at least regarding Israeli-Palestinian peace.
Also interesting is a U.S. linkage between resolving the Iranian nuclear issue and removing Israeli settlers and settlements from the West Bank:
Senior US administration officials are fully aware of the linkage that Prime Minister Netanyahu and Defense Minister Barak have created between Israeli willingness to make advances on the Palestinian track and their expectations of the Americans to address the Iranian threat, and senior American officials have begun to talk about “Bushehr for Yitzhar.” Namely, if you want us to help you defuse the Iranian threat, including the nuclear reactor in Bushehr, get ready to evacuate settlements in the West Bank, with Yitzhar considered to be a token of an Israeli withdrawal from West Bank territory.
While I’m in favor of using any leverage available to bring Israel to negotiate an end to this conflict, I’m not so sure that tying two such disparate issues as Iran’s nuclear capability and Israeli settlements together is wise. What if the U.S. fails to secure Iranian agreement to end its nuclear program? What if whatever agreement the U.S. does reach with Iran doesn’t satisfy Israel? There are too many ways to weasel out of this one I’m afraid. This reeks of a Bibi-Barack devised trick.
If the following portion of the story is correct, then Obama is truly throwing caution to the winds and breaking from previous presidential traditions in regards to relations with the Israeli prime minister:
Meanwhile, US administration officials informed Netanyahu that President Obama will not be able to meet with him in early May, while the AIPAC conference is held in Washington. The meeting between the new Israeli premier and the president of the United States is perceived in Israel as a sign that the formation process of the new government has been completed and as a salutation by Israel’s close friend. Netanyahu had hoped to capitalize on the opportunity and to meet with Obama during the annual AIPAC conference, but the Americans informed the Israelis that Obama was not going to be “in town.” That being the case, the inclination among Netanyahu’s aides is to cancel his trip to attend the AIPAC conference and to try to secure a date for a meeting with Obama later in May.
Sources in Washington said that the Obama administration would not continue the tradition that developed during the Bush administration of hosting Israeli premiers many times during the year, sometimes with just a phone call’s advance notice.
No more Mr. Nice Guy, says Barack. All right, I say! When an Israeli prime minister comes to town for the annual Aipac conference just after his election, it’s the equivalent of a debutante’s coming out party. That’s why the symbolism of a presidential meeting is so important to the new Israeli leader. Saying there will be no such meeting is more than a slap in the face. It’s a bucket of cold water thrown over one’s head. It’s a sign that there’s a new sheriff in town and he won’t be laying low like the last one did.
I note also that the Israelis haven’t even secured any date to meet Obama. In other words, the president is leaving him high and dry. To not have a new prime minister attend the national Aipac conference will be a huge blow not just to Bibi, but to Aipac as well. The group prides itself as being the major power broker and liaison between American Jewry, and Israel’s and America’s political leadership. Obama is deliberately depriving them of their traditional role. There must be much gnashing of teeth in Aipac’s offices today.
When Rahm Emanuel was first appointed chief of staff many worried that he would be a pro-Israel Likudist pushover. If Shimon Shiffer’s story is any indication, this fear turns out to have been completely unfounded. I can’t tell you how pleased I am to know that my president and his chief of staff are willing to kick ass to get things done. Higiya zman (“it’s about time”)!
UPDATE: I just had a conversation with Sol Salbe about this Yediot story and he and I both agree that there is a shifting of tectonic plates both in this country’s relationship with Israel and the power of the Israel lobby. Sol is more declarative than I’m willing to be and believes that in the history of Israel the years 1948 and 1967 were landmarks. The events of those years were epoch-changing and what came afterward was nothing like what came before. And he thinks that 2009, or at least the four years of Obama’s first term will be equally historic.
Sol is also impressed with the Obama administrations reopening of the issue of attending the Durban II anti-racism conference. This issue is red meat to pro-Israel groups and for Obama potentially to defy them sends a signal to all that the interests of the lobby are no longer necessarily primary in the mind of the administration.
I joked with Sol about Condi Rice’s “birth pangs of a new Middle East” statement during the Lebanon war and said that what we are seeing NOW may be those birth pangs. Sol rightly pointed out that she might have been right (though not in the way in which she intended). In other words, Bush’s failed Iraq war helped to bring Obama to power. Israel’s failed wars in Lebanon also made politicians like Obama realize that the military option was a zero sum game that needed to be renounced in favor of negotiation. So in a sense Iraq, Lebanon and Gaza have been the death rattle of the old order; while Obama’s election has been a birth pang of new one.
If Obama succeeds as Emanuel promises he will and there is a new Palestinian state, then there is no doubt that there will also be peace between Israel and Syria, that Lebanon will eventually normalize relations, that Hezbollah will cease being Israel’s mortal enemy, and Iran will stand down from its threatening rhetoric and actions toward Israel. And this WOULD BE the birth pangs of a new Middle East.
Let me understand this-The US Administration links its policy to Iran, a potential nuclear power that takes positions hostile to American interests and the interests of its Arab allies to whether Israeli knocks down Yitzhar or not. Does that make sense? This discredits the whole article in Yediot in my mind.
President Bush also explicitly promised the Saudi Royal familty the same thing at the beginning of his first term…he would be the President who would oversee the creation of a Palestinian state. Before you start coming up with reasons to dismiss this, recall that the Saudi Royal family donated millions of dollars to the Bush family for Poppy’s Presidential library, and that the Arab-Americans voted overwhelmingly for Bush Jr recalling how Poppy was willing to twist Israel’s arm openly. Recall also how it was Bush Jr who oversaw the first destruction of Israeli settlements in Gush Katif, something Clinton never managed to do. Yet did he succeed in getting a Palestinian state? No.
The whole thrust of this seems to be based on the idea that all that is needed is enough pressure on Israel will enable the US to impose an agreement. However, as you know, it takes two to tango. There is the other side as well. Are the Palestinians going to agree to the terms that Obama thinks are reasonable? In any event, who is going to sing on this for the Palestinian side? FATAH? HAMAS? Some joint delegation? What about the Iranians? They have influence with HAMAS. Are they going to go along with Obama’s fast track plans?
Do you really believe that Obama is going to make a public committment to something so risky given the danger that it won’t work out and then his credibility would suffer?
Richard Silverstein says
The diff. bet. George Bush & Barack Obama is that the former was a liar and had absolutely no idea how to create a Palestinian state. Obama, on the other hand, is not a liar (at least not so far) & I think has the will to actually do this.
Bush had nothing to do with the Gaza withdrawal. Saying he “oversaw” it is ridiculous.
Yes, if Obama convinces them that he’s offering the best deal possible, which I believe he can.
Hamas is NOT Hezbollah. The former is not a satellite or proxy for Iran (though there are close relations bet. them), nor could that country persuade Hamas to refuse an agreement which that movement found to be in its best interests.
If the Iranians perceive that normalizing relations with the U.S. is in their interests & Obama offers enough carrots, then yes Iran will go along.
You sound like you’re trying to persuade yrself that this can’t happen. But alas, it will & yes Obama not only WILL make such a commitment, he already has according to Emanuel’s statement. Obama realizes that if he doesn’t make such a commitment his credibility will suffer equally. Better to commit to fix a problem despite the danger that failure poses to one’s reputation, than to sit by and watch a problem become an epidemic also causing one’s reputation to fall.
Very exciting indeed. Even if this doesn’t go the distance, the symbolic importance of these breaks with recent tradition and ideological orthodoxy is incalculable. So long as Obama doesn’t shoot himself in the foot somehow, I think a perfect storm of dissatisfaction across the political spectrum with the intolerable status quo (not to mention widespread disillusionment with Tel Avivs narrative after the Gaza attacks) is likely to insulate him from repercussions for taking on these sacred cows. With the exception of a few certifiably insane people on the Christian Far Right no one outside of the AIPAC crowd is really comfortable with the present apocalyptic course. Bibi must be sweating bullets.
Your clarity of vision is so enlightening.
I certainly sense a shift in the public opinion about this sad conflict. I regularly speak at colleges and churches and I am hearing more people expressing frustration with Israel’s continuing occupation and illegal building of settlements, making it ever more difficult to have a Palestinian state.
I just hope that President Obama not get distracted by a war in Afghanistan or a worsening economy that he will abadon his current efforts to bring a just peace in the Middle East.
I can’t take another disappointment. I really can’t witness another wave of deaths and destruction such as Israel’s recent ones on Lebanon and Gaza. I fear that we are losing our humanity when all we can do is watch and weep over such massacres of so many innocent people.
Keep writing; many are reading; hopefully enough of us will be motivated to act for peace.
Hi Richard, I don’t know if you caught these two Ha’aretz articles on Americans who wanted Obama to attend Durban II. They were particularly concerned about Obama’s attempts to remove references to slavery.
Open Letter to President Obama, and U.S. rights groups urge Obama to send Durban II delegation both from March 30th. The comments won’t let me post the links, so I hope they can be found from the titles.
It is good news that he is reconsidering sending people. There is more information at the United Nations site here: http://www.ngomonitor.org/article/durban_conference_0#other_governments
gene schulman says
As my dear mother used to say, “I should live to see the day.”
Frankly, I think if the Obama administration can pull something like this off, it will be on the same terms that were turned down at Camp David: A pseudo state made up of bantustans.
Another thing that puzzles me is that if indeed Roger Cohen of the NYTimes is correct, and Iran is a benevolent power with no evil designs on Israel and is dying to improve relations with the US, then what does the report that says “Busheir for Yitzhar” mean? (Busheir is Iran’s nuclear facility and Yitzar is a Jewish settlement in Samaria). If Obama agrees with Cohen, then what exactly is he offering Israel if “Busheir” is NOT a threat? Or, alternatively Richard, if it IS a threat, that means Obama (and you) WOULD support an armed attack on Iran as long as Israel went along with knocking down the settlements in Judea/Samaria?
Richard Silverstein says
Would you pls. provide yr source for this claim. I nowhere read Cohen to be saying that nor did he. Sloppy on yr part.
Neither Cohen, nor prob. Obama if you asked him privately believe Iran is a direct nuclear threat to Israel (though Obama has said publicly that he believes it is). The only actor in this drama who believes Iran wants to drop nuclear weapons on Israel is Israel. So since Israel believes this Obama is offering to remove the problem by trading Busheir for Yitzhar. The latter isn’t necessarily saying he accepts Israel’s view of the matter.
I don’t believe either that Iran is a nuclear threat to Israel, so yr hypothetical is lost on me.
Richard Witty says
“The only actor in this drama who believes Iran wants to drop nuclear weapons on Israel is Israel.”
Please also provide a cite for that claim. The key word is “want”. I’ve never heard an Israeli official state in the name of Israel that they expect Iran to unilaterally drop a bomb, but more that they expect Iran to escalate its dominance in the region, with an overly ideological bent.
Arie Brand says
It sounds almost too good to be true.
What I would like to know is the type of meeting Emanuel had with that ‘Jewish leader in Washington’ – was it during a ‘liquid lunch’. I am asking because why would a sober Emanuel say things like ‘it doesn’t matter to us at all who is Prime Minister’. Perhaps it doesn’t but why would a White House Chief of Staff openly say that? No need to antagonize N. more than is necessary to get things done. A man in Emanuel’s position would, I think, be keenly aware of that.
Richard Silverstein says
Unless he was feeling “jacked around” by Bibi. Remember, Rahm is known for having a trigger temper & doesn’t suffer fools gladly.
Richard – SOS Eurosaba has referred me to a Hebrew version of Netanyahu’s Likud platform. http://www.netanyahu.org.il Can you help, please? Eurosabra’s comment: http://www.philipweiss.org/mondoweiss/2009/04/american-jewry-has-reached-its-rendezvous-with-destiny.html
There’s always the Likud Party platform, http://www.netanyahu.org.il. Of course the complete version is in Hebrew, but you’ll have to read it because the English version emphasizes the Jewish tie to Israel, settlement of the Land, and sovereignty, without a detailed explanation of the Likud concept of a “Jewish state.” The Hebrew version is not much better, but includes much happy talk of using state structures to preserve “Jewish cultural-traditional values”, which might lead people to the right of Likud to conclude that N. is less concerned with Jewish control of state structures for (ahem) differential development. Certainly the Likud is committed to non-discrimination between citizens in a very big way, for a rightist party, but it is not going to undermine state structures that function to the benefit of the Jewish community. (i.e. the aid function of the Jewish Agency for Israel will include rebuilding of Arab towns affected by the Lebanon War at parity with comparable Jewish towns, but the JNF will not be disestablished.)
I considered an email, and should follow-through in that manner, but it is a debate to which I would welcome others from here.
I will be back for today’s post.
Richard Silverstein says
I couldn’t make head or tails of much of what he wrote. But the issue of non discrimination regarding Likud is preposterous. If he’d written “non discriminationa against Israel’s Jewish citizens” then it might have been meaningful since Likud has been much more successful at attracting Mizrahim to its cause than has Labor. But to include Israelis Arabs within that description is laughable.
And as I’ve written here about Hamas’ Charter–I don’t give a rat’s ass about what a political movement or party writes in a platform. They’re hardly worth the paper they’re written on. What a party DOES is the only thing that counts.
Sorry but I think I’ll play the skeptic here.
The format in which this appears – a second-hand anonymous quotation of Emmanuel in the Israeli press – is quite familiar.
More often than not, this type of “leaks” or red herrings is used by Israel’s leadership to pre-empt real diplomatic pressure and rally the troops (read: AIPAC).
Unless I am much mistaken, we will soon hear Rahm or his spokesperson deny the quotes, or ignore them.
If there was an intention to change course on Israel in the near future, the fabulous swearing-in speech of Lieberman was a golden opportunity. There was no taker.
Wake me up when there’s something more tangible to celebrate 😉
Richard Witty says
I think the significance of the leek even, is hope that the US will act in earnest to make some just solution materialize, rather than neglect (with all the mutual harms and distortions that occur from neglect).
“But linking this so emphatically to the Iranian issue strikes me as a mistake, because it could give Tehran a de facto veto over the peace process. If Israeli compliance becomes directly tied to a resolution of Iran’s nuclear program on terms acceptable to Israel, and if Iran decides to stonewall, then the Netanyahu government will have an excuse to dig in its own heels. Ironically, that outcome might not trouble the Iranian government, which exploits the Israeli-Palestine conflict to enhance its own influence, to put more pressure on the United States, and to keep Arab regimes like Saudi Arabia off-balance by emphasizing their failure to do anything tangible to help the Palestinians. “
RE: “What if whatever agreement the U.S. does reach with Iran doesn’t satisfy Israel?”
MY COMMENT: Can’t we just stipulate that Israel WILL NOT be satisfied by any agreement that the U.S. might reach with Iran?
RE: “…US administration officials informed Netanyahu that President Obama will not be able to meet with him in early May, while the AIPAC conference is held in Washington…”
FROM THE “JERUSALEM POST” (04/16/09):
“…Mitchell invited Netanyahu to visit Washington on May 11, but that proved problematic for scheduling reasons, the sources said…”
SOURCE – http://www.jpost.com/servlet/Satellite?cid=1239710701752&pagename=JPost/JPArticle/ShowFull
MY COMMENT: Draw your own conclusions.
DICKERSON3870 – Obama, in his state craft, also seems to be sending this message: I won’t be joining you in your talk with AIPAC.
Stipulation agreed upon.
The attention to Durban II is important. Impossible to believe that some one grounded in Chicago’s school of civil rights would ignore Durban II.
Yes, Margaret, I think that is a point that really should be focused upon. I realise I just had too many links in my last post.
Here is the link for “Open Letter to President Barack Obama” (check out the signatories)
and here is the link for the commentary
Let’s hope it works this time.
Miles Stuart says
Who caused this story to be published and why?
I could easily be wrong but I think the story was driven from the Israeli side. I don’t doubt that Obama is pushing (eg ‘out of town’ for AIPAC meeting). My reading is that this is Netanyahu gauging how much he can push back; this is an attempt to measure how much domestic trouble he can cause Obama.
With respect to epoch-changing events the 1982 invasion of Lebanon seems to me to be an obvious landmark. That was the moment when Israel exposed itself as a bullying Goliath rather than a vulnerable David. Before that it was rarely examined with any real objectivity in the mass media (at least here in the UK). Ever since it has faced growing popular opposition within its Western supporters, initially in Europe and now increasingly in the US. The most remarkable feature of the recent Gaza atrocities was the extent to which the Israel/Lobby narrative was challenged inside the US. Operation Drop Dead and the siege have gained Israel little but will cost it a lot and for a long time.
What Israelis and Palestinians definitely do not need is another Oslo. Like almost everyone I was convinced Oslo would result in a lasting peace. In hindsight it is easy to see that its failure was all but inevitable. I hope and pray that Obama does not seek to impose another fudged agreement.
First, do no harm.
Miles, IMO definitely it is important to support Obama, perhaps useful to define Obama’s intent in these terms, and see what push back we get. Netanyahu needs a unified and loud response: Talk to the president, not to AIPAC.
The president sets policy; isn’t that what Emanuel has just said, basically?
Lebanon grabbed my attention, stoked my opposition.
First, do no harm. Can’t we make it: first, stop the harm?
Thanks for the clarification, Richard. (Definitely irascible!)
RE: “What if whatever agreement the U.S. does reach with Iran doesn’t satisfy Israel?”
FROM GORDON PRATHER:
“…And what message did DEBKAfile and the Likudniks receive?
That if Hillary’s “diplomacy” fails as it will to “halt” Iran’s IAEA Safeguarded “nuclear activities” Israel will be left “with no option” but to attack and destroy them before the year is out!”
ENTIRE PRATHER ARTICLE – http://original.antiwar.com/prather/scenario-for-2009-israeli-strike-on-iran/
Marc Gopin says
I fully agree, there are historic changes afoot, and I have sensed since the day I invested so heavily of my time, energy and writing in getting Obama elected. He has the capability to challenge both these peoples to develop the requisite leadership to make the historic transition to the original proposal of 1948. It has taken a landslide routing in American politics and discrediting of militarism to give a very talented president the capacity to stand up to any and every lobby here. It is breathtaking. Whether it succeeds depends on many other factors involving a number of nations.
Saint Michael Traveler says
Obama’s Foreign Policy Challenge: Middle East
The following is an approach to a realistic foreign policy for the administration of President Obama.
Palestinian Independent State
The problems of Palestinian subjugation to Israel occupation are the seeds for an unstable world including the Middle East. Many expect, as previously stated by Iran and many Arab counties, that they would not reject a reasonable break through between Washington and Israel over the Palestinians home state. However; many political analysts have suggested that any resolution about Palestinian state would be a non-starter with Israel. The success or failure of the administration of President Obama with Israel would determine the nature of future stability for the Middle East.
There is no dispute that Iran is already a nuclear state. The states with this capacity are many; among them are Japan and Germany. But, there is a great difference between being a nuclear state, i.e., nuclear fuel cycle capacity, and a state with nuclear bomb, such as India, USA, Russia, England, France, China, Israel and Pakistan.
The steps required to allay our fear that Iran in the future may develop Nuclear Bomb are:
1. Nuclear Fuel Cycle Iranian Consortium:
USA should join the consortium among others Japan, Germany, France and England to actively monitor the Iranian fuel cycle activity too. IAEA has consistently asserted that the agency could not find any indications that Iran is diverting the fuel cycle for nuclear bomb development. Iran has asserted that their activities are limited to development of fuel for nuclear reactor.
2. Nuclear Shield
An international nuclear shield for all nations in the Middle East, including Iran;
3. A nuclear- bomb-free Middle East.
This action will remove any pressure from Iran to develop nuclear bomb in the future for deterrence against nuclear bomb Israeli state.
Unfortunately the attentions of the past two US Presidents (Clinton and Bush) were on nuclear fuel cycle of Iran. They both ignored that Israel had nuclear bombs. The Middle East should be the starting point toward President Obama’s dream of a world free of all nuclear bombs.
Ideas such as you express, St Michael Traveler, should find fertile ground. Many aspects of former policies for nuclear disarmament based on mutually assured destruction can be adapted for the current environment, and it is past time to do so.
Nuclear weaponry are dangerous and deserve to be treated with the respect danger commands. I dislike in the extreme the anxiety I experience when Israel refers to nuclear arms; the demeanor with which such weaponry is discussed by those who prefer an active military approach to ‘peace keeping’ by Israel is of particular concern because of the high degree of collateral damage Israel has proven itself willing to accept in order to make points not seen as helpful for world stability by other nations.
Nuclear capacity needs to be treated with understanding of the harm carelessness or abuse can create, and policies on use must be international to have value. Israel’s nuclear capacity must be included in any international consideration for steps forward to made in dealing with the danger that lack of unity can present when multiple nations are armed.