After days of a news blackout about the details of the meeting on Tuesday between President Barack Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, the Britain’s Telegraph has broken a story with details about what can only be described as an attempt to humiliate the Israeli.
According to the Telegraph’s account, the meeting began with the president presenting a list of 13 demands to Netanyahu. These included a complete freeze on Jewish building in eastern Jerusalem. When Netanyahu did not immediately accede to this diktat, Obama left him saying he was going to go eat dinner with his wife and daughters. Netanyahu and his party were left to wait for over an hour for Obama’s return. The paper claims that as Obama left, he told the prime minister to consider “the error of his ways.” Yediot Ahronot reported that Obama merely said, “I’m still around. Let me know if there is anything new.” A second brief meeting followed, which apparently consisted of the president restating his demands. As a punishment for Netanyahu’s failure to immediately bend to Obama’s ultimatum, there was no joint statement issued about the meeting and no press coverage of the visit. Friday’s Ma’ariv describes the scene thusly: “There is no humiliation exercise that the Americans did not try on the prime minister and his entourage. Bibi received in the White House the treatment reserved for the president of Equatorial Guinea.”
The Jerusalem Post is reporting that Obama wants an answer to his demands by Saturday so he can then present them to a meeting of the Arab League going on in Libya so that ineffectual body can endorse the so-called proximity talks in which the Palestinian Authority refuses to directly negotiate with Israel.
All of which points to the fact that the crisis between Israel and the United States, which many observers had thought was blowing over in the wake of the trumped-up controversy over the announcement of a Jerusalem housing project during a visit by Vice President Joe Biden, is far from concluded. In fact, it appears that Obama is just getting started.
What does the president hope to achieve? Having asked and gotten a building freeze in the West Bank from Netanyahu last year, the Palestinians still won’t sit and talk peace directly with Israel. Why should they when every time Israel makes a concession, the Arabs can now count on Obama demanding more, even to the point of making an issue of something like building in existing Jewish neighborhoods in eastern Jerusalem, which had never previously been a sticking point for the Americans. Since Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas has already rejected an independent Palestinian state in the West Bank, Gaza, and part of Jerusalem as recently as late 2008, does Obama think Netanyahu — or any Israeli leader — can offer more? Does he truly believe that for the first time in their history, the Palestinians will take “yes” — since Netanyahu has also already agreed to the principle of a two-state solution — for an answer?
Perhaps, the 13-point ultimatum is just another attempt to topple Netanyahu’s coalition. But there is no reason to believe that Netanyahu’s partners — and the vast majority of the Israeli people — will not support him, especially when the issue at stake is the unity of Jerusalem. It is unlikely that Israelis will clamor for surrender to Washington in light of the fact that the man making these demands is an American president whom they rightly regard as hostile to their nation. But after Israel says “no” to Obama, does Obama dare escalate his diplomatic offensive against Israel further, even as his administration’s efforts to stop Iran from obtaining a nuclear capability appear stalled? Obama has nothing to gain in continuing on this path, but then again, there was no point in starting this ruckus and choosing to humiliate the only democracy in the Middle East in the first place. Is Obama capable of stopping before this train wreck of a policy creates even more mischief in the region, as well as for Democrats seeking Jewish support this year?
Finally, one more thought about Obama’s 13-point ultimatum: It brings to mind the reaction of French President Georges Clemenceau to American President Woodrow Wilson’s “14 Points” aimed at ending World War One in 1918. Stunned at Wilson’s presumption, Clemenceau quipped: “Even the good Lord contented Himself with only Ten Commandments, and we should not try to improve upon them.” The same might well be said of Obama’s arrogance.