Tuesday, May 19, 2009

The Obama-Bibi Show

Behind all of the talking heads, speculation, commentary and buzz surrounding the meeting between Netanyahu and Obama, the basic facts on the ground remain unchanged. Both Israel and the US know this, but cannot publicly declare that there is not a chance in hell that there will be a Palestinian-Israeli agreement in the forseeable future. So they dance around each other, making public statements in support of peace and negotiation. The Europeans, Americans and Arabs need to maintain the illusion of "progress" towards peace.

So the meetings and declarations are just a big orchestrated farce.

Obama will pretend to be pressuring Israel into a 2 state solution, even though he knows that this is impossible given the Palestinian divide. He cannot make Israel commit national suicide by forcing us into making a deal with Abbas. Bibi will continue to evade saying the magic word "state", knowing full well that ultimately the end game is indeed a Palestinian state, but not in the near future, so why provoke his domestic right wing opponents? As Ehud Barak correctly point out, after all, Israel has been talking about 2 states for the past 15 years since Oslo, and the Palestinians have not exactly fallen into our embrace. This is the precise point that Leiberman has been making all along.

There will be "virtual" pressure on Israel to make gestures-- taking down a few checkpoints or makeshift illegal buildings in the territories, but it will lead nowhere.

So really the argument between Bibi and Obama, and with Bibi's erstwhile colleagues in Kadima, is, how best to handle the PR. Do we say "two states", in order to appease the world, or avoid saying it, in order to not raise unrealistic expectations?

Unfortunately, American efforts to "reshape" the Middle East, as in the past, are doomed to failure.

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