It’s beginning to become clear to me that it’s important not only to note what Barack Obama says but how and in what context he says it. Israeli prime ministers are used to getting individual face time with U.S. presidents. They’re used to being treated as royalty and with kid gloves. They preen a bit in a White House press conference and look good to all the folks back home.
This story indicates to me that Obama means no more business as usual. Yes, Bibi will get his meeting with Obama in May. But it will only be in the context of other meetings of equivalent importance with two other players in the I-P conflict, Mubarak and Abbas.
Gone are the days when Israeli premiers could boast of their unfettered access to the Oval Office. Bibi will have to get in line like everyone else. And if he doesn’t produce there likely will be no more White House photo opportunities. In fact, Bibi could be out in the cold if he continue spouting the same rejectionist line he’s been using over the past few weeks.
Basically, it’s put up or shut up time in Jerusalem. If he doesn’t, then it will be a long, cold interval until Bibi gets booted out of office and is replaced (hopefully) with someone more conducive to making real progress on the issues.
While this may have some relevance to the Palestinians, it was almost wholly directed at Bibi’s intransigent government:
”My hope would be,” Obama said, ”that over the next several months, that you start seeing gestures of good faith on all sides. I don’t want to get into the details of what those gestures might be, but I think that the parties in the region probably have a pretty good recognition of what intermediate steps could be taken as confidence-building measures.”
In other words, if Obama doesn’t see real, tangible progress like settlements dismantled, roadblocks removed and the Gaza blockade eased, then it will be a cold day in Hell before Bibi gets anything from our side. Not to mention that Obama might go public with his displeasure, thereby exerting even more pressure. The last J Street poll indicates that American Jews would have little problem with their president expressing such views and doing so publicly.