The Arabist

The Arabist

By Issandr El Amrani and friends.

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.