Emanuel sends message that Obama will play hardball with Bibi

I'm reproducing this entire blog post by MJ Rosenberg because it made my jaw drop on the floor (in a good way):
Emanuel Says Obama Insists On Implementing Two State Solution, No Ifs, Ands, or Buts | Israel Policy Forum: "Yedioth Achronoth, the largest circulation daily in Israel, reports today that President Obama intends to see the two-state solution signed, sealed and delivered during his first term. Rahm Emanuel told an (unnamed) Jewish leader; '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.' He also said that the United States will exert pressure to see that deal is put into place.'Any treatment of the Iranian nuclear problem will be contingent upon progress in the negotiations and an Israeli withdrawal from West Bank territory,' the paper reports Emanuel as saying.  In other words, US sympathy for Israel's position vis a vis Iran depends on Israel's willingness to live up to its commitment to get out of the West Bank and permit the establishment of a Palestinian state there, in Gaza, and East Jerusalem. Yedioth also reports that Obama is conveying his displeasure with the new Israeli government in several ways. '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 also 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.' So far neither the White House or the Israeli government has commented on the report which, it should be noted, comes from Shimon Shiffer, one of Israel's most highly respected journalists."
If this is true Obama will have a tough time ahead of him, although postponing ANY meeting with Netanyahu until he comes out clearly in support of the two-state solution is a first. I wish there could be a mechanism to define the two-state solution within the parameters of 242 or Geneva, too. Update: Along with the report above, read this:
When a group of Jewish liberals formed a lobbying and fundraising group called J Street a year ago, they had modest hopes of raising $50,000 for a handful of congressional candidates. Instead, the group's political arm ended up funneling nearly $600,000 to several dozen Democrats and a handful of Republicans in 2008, making it Washington's leading pro-Israel PAC, according to Federal Election Commission expenditure records. Organizers say 33 of the group's 41 favored House and Senate candidates won their races.
[Thanks, SP] Winning the support of the White House for a sane policy towards the Israel/Palestine conflict is important, but not nearly as important as winning the Congress' support -- especially for if and when the time comes to impose sanctions on companies that do business with settlements in the Occupied Territories or withholding loan guarantees. There will have to be a battle, probably against J-Street, to ensure a Palestinian state is viable and fully sovereign (esp. over its airspace, borders and underground resources, notably water.) But that's a different fight.
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Doomsday cult: Bibi and the Zionist view of Iran

Last week Jeffrey Goldberg, the most important cheerleader for Israel in American journalism, interviewed Benyamin Netanyahu and talked to him about Iran in particular, which of course Goldberg framed within the Iran-will-nuke-Israel-as-soon-as-it-gets-the-bomb meme. The article is full of this kind of stuff, like calling all Islamists (Hamas, the Iranians, Hizbullah, al-Qaeda) "jihadists" as if they were one and the same, and very short on pushing Bibi on the Palestinian question (there's no questioning of his reversal of Israeli policy since Oslo, i.e. a commitment to the two-state solution.) In fact, throughout the whole interview, Goldberg and Bibi keep coming back to the Iran issue as the most important thing, with some subtle threats from Bibi that Israel would take the Iranian matter into its own hands if Obama doesn’t (which is most likely bluster as a strategic strike on Iran's nuclear reactor(s) is not believed by military expert to be an effective deterrent.) Bibi says:
"You don't want a messianic apocalyptic cult controlling atomic bombs. When the wide-eyed believer gets hold of the reins of power and the weapons of mass death, then the entire world should start worrying, and that is what is happening in Iran."
I have been struck over the last two years by the apocalyptic tone of Israeli politicians and their supporters around the world about Iran. It appears they view Iran and its mullahs a little bit like a fantastically weird scene in Beneath the Planet of Apes, a rare sequel that is better than its original. The scene shows the remnants of the human race, a bizarre doomsday bomb-worshiping cult that has put a big gold ultimate nuclear weapon at the center of its theology: [flv:pota2weirdscene.flv 470 360] And while we're on that movie, one wonders if the Iranians view the Israelis - and indeed the Americans - like the warmongering gorillas in the same movie who decide to wage battle on the last remnants of humanity. Perhaps this is how the mullahs viewed George W. Bush's axil of evil moment: [flv:pota2ursusspeech.flv 470 360] Update: Joe Klein, reacting to the Bibi interview, makes some good points about inconsistencies in what Netanyahu says about the alleged irrationality of the Iranians (esp. his point that they might be responsive to economic sanctions - why, if they are irrational?) but has a very weird part about Arab fears of Iran:
Netanyahu is also completely wrong when he says that Iran, with a bomb, will be able to coerce Arab neighbors to its side. The precise opposite is true: Iran with a bomb would touch off an Arab arms race. The very prospect of Iran with a bomb is freaking out the Arabs now--in private, your average Egyptian, Jordanian or Saudi diplomat is far more passionate about the threat from Iran than the "atrocities" Israel undertook in Gaza.
Funny how I haven't noticed people, in private conversation, freaking out about Iran, or that they are more outraged by this than by Gaza. What the Arab regimes freak about is not the Iranian bomb but growing Iranian regional influence and what it might mean if they do get the bomb. Our friend Ezzedine Choukri-Fishere articulates this Arab fear of Iranian influence elegantly in a recent article:
srael is not the only party that is nervous about US-Iranian dialogue. Arab states are watching carefully American overtures towards their Persian neighbour. From their perspective, American-Iranian dialogue is a continuation of the risky European approach, which was based on offering Iran regional "incentives" in return for ending some of its nuclear activities. Arab states are more concerned about Iran's regional ambition than about its nuclear programme; the latter is important only in so far that it constitutes an element in Iran's bid for hegemony in the Middle East. From where they stand, offering Iran more regional power in return for its uranium enrichment defeats the purpose of the exercise. As far as nuclear programmes go, most Arab states are more worried about Israel's nuclear arsenal than they are about Iran's nascent capabilities. Even if they wanted to, Arab leaders would find it politically difficult to cooperate with the US against Iran's nuclear activities while Israel's nuclear weapons are shielded from scrutiny.
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Bibi vs. Ajami, back in the days

Update: VIDEO FOUND OK, a little Googling enabled me to find a copy of the Netanyahu tape on the Israeli site MahNishMah!?, since the original YouTube version was removed and its account shut down. It turns out that the tape has made quite a stir in Israel, as Netanyahu is about to become PM for the second time. Right-wingers saw in Young Bibi (who then called himself Ben Nitay) a better version of his current self, seen as too accommodating (!) to Obama. In the video, Bibi says he is 28-years-old and describes himself as an "economic consultant" -- indeed according to Wikipedia he worked at Boston Consulting Group immediately after graduating from Harvard at that time. He was as smarmy then as he is now. But actually if you listen carefully to what he says, he is arguing that Palestinian should not have self-determination (which would be "unfair" because there are already 21 Arab states) but instead integrate Jordan or Israel. He argues forcefully that Israel is a democracy and West Bankers and Gazans would be given the right to vote in Israel. Obviously this must predate the current Israeli concern about Palestinian demographics, although Fouad Ajami does raise this issue. So, once again, is Bibi Netanyahu advocating a one-state solution? Here is the video on YouTube. (It will take a little while for YouTube to process the video, so it might not be immediately available.) I will soon add a link to a MP4 format file for downloading in case YouTube removes the video again. Download in MP4 format (Quicktime, 31.6MB). Originally found through: Angry Arab. Update 2: Now also on Vimeo, better quality.
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