The Obama-Netanyahu meeting, May 2011: a remark
President Barack Obama said to his guest, prime minister Binyamin (“Bibi”) Netanyahu that the starting point of the negotiations between the State of Israel and the Palestinians should be the June 4, 1967 borders (“with agreed land swaps”, or something like that).
Yes, in a free speech society he could start from Gibraltar to Kamchatka, or from Tel-Aviv to Kfar-Sava, but the question is whether he wanted to achieve some goal, or just words-words-words.
Bibi responded with a “brilliant” speech before the AIPAC conference: The 1967 borders are undefendable!
Next, Obama appeared before the AIPAC conference and gave a “softened” speech, and Bibi responded with another “brilliant” speech in the Congress.
Then, ending Bibi’s visit to the U.S., the two leaders exchanged hugs and kisses, and parted “as friends, in spite of all the differences” … What a surprise after having seen this very movie a year ago, or so, with the same stars and co-stars (Michelle and Sara’leh, in alphabetic order).
The responses in both the American and the Israeli streets were boring, just boring: Obama isn’t aware of the security problems of Israel, and Bibi, au contraire, gave a “brilliant” (Have we already said this? Yes, we did, not only here) speech…
Boring, with nothing new, as the meeting of the two leaders bore nothing new.
Before I say something which – in the flood of words – no one has said about the encounter between the leaders, let me say a word about the prospects of any arrangement that will put an end to the conflict in the Middle East.
Unfortunately, there is no solution to the Israeli-Arab problem which will be accepted by 51% (or more) of the Israelis and by 51% (or more) of the Palestinians, in the next several generations.
Not even one thousand and one summit meetings and AIPAC/Congress brilliant speeches will change this forecast.
Yet, as an incurable optimist, I believe that some creativity may – not sure – open this deadlock, and president Obama, unfortunately, did not show even a little bit of creativity.
Facing the previous visit of Netanyahu to the White House I wrote to Obama, suggesting a creative solution to the issue, and got a very polite answer. Polite, but saying nothing. It doesn’t mean that my idea is the only creative one, and, of course that any creativity can bear fruit, but one must try.
And Obama, I fear, did not even try.
Now, what about Bibi’s “contribution” to the no-solution?
Yes, he did contribute. He didn’t show enough “businessmanship”.
If I were he, I would “stream” with my host, not against him.
I would ask him a small question, and “rest my case”: Suppose, Mr. President – just suppose! – we agree to your starting-point… how do we get along?
At this point Obama must have stuttered, since he is not authorized by the Palestinians to negotiate with Israel, on their behalf, but I would not leave him alone: “Mr. President, here is my cellphone, call Mr. Abbas at my expense, and ask him this question”.
The chance that this suppose-question would be answered in either of the two ways tends to zero, and the impact on the public opinion of this gesture would be much more than the impression made by a thousand brilliant speeches that say nothing new, if at all.
This is what I would have done, if I were Bibi Netanyahu.
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