Analysis: Obama succeeded in talking to Israelis, over the head of Netanyahu

The US president delivered the goods at the Saban Forum with interesting insights on the subject of Iran and the Palestinians; The question is, were they satisfied by his comments at a certain house in Jerusalem, or Caesarea.

December 8, 2013 12:54
3 minute read.
US President Barack Obama speaks at the Saban Forum in Washington December 7, 2013.

Obama at Saban forum serious 370. (photo credit: REUTERS/James Lawler Dugga)


Dear Reader,
As you can imagine, more people are reading The Jerusalem Post than ever before. Nevertheless, traditional business models are no longer sustainable and high-quality publications, like ours, are being forced to look for new ways to keep going. Unlike many other news organizations, we have not put up a paywall. We want to keep our journalism open and accessible and be able to keep providing you with news and analysis from the frontlines of Israel, the Middle East and the Jewish World.

As one of our loyal readers, we ask you to be our partner.

For $5 a month you will receive access to the following:

  • A user experience almost completely free of ads
  • Access to our Premium Section
  • Content from the award-winning Jerusalem Report and our monthly magazine to learn Hebrew - Ivrit
  • A brand new ePaper featuring the daily newspaper as it appears in print in Israel

Help us grow and continue telling Israel’s story to the world.

Thank you,

Ronit Hasin-Hochman, CEO, Jerusalem Post Group
Yaakov Katz, Editor-in-Chief


US President Barack Obama's speech to the Israeli public on Saturday was delivered at a carefully chosen home-court venue. A hall full of "Saban Forum" members, a crowd that, in general, supports every US president. The master of ceremonies - Haim Saban
himself, an American-Israeli millionaire, and personal friend of the president, with the
special ability to ask bastardly questions with a pleasant smile on his face.

And US President Barack Obama himself, who arrived Saturday at the Willard Hotel in
Washington in an excellent mood, was as charming and elegant as always, and this time also exact and calcualted.

If Obama wanted to speak to the Israeli public over the head of Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, and also over the head of the media, he fully achieved his goal.

We, as well, the worldwide audience, can also be satisfied. Obama delivered the goods and had a few interesting insights.

The Palestinian issue, of all things, gave us the biggest headline. Obama continued the
semi-optimistic line that US Secretary of State John Kerry began on Friday. There is a chance to reach an agreement, the president said, for the first time raising the possiblity of a "framework agreement" for an interim period, meaning an intermediary agreement between the Israelis and Palestinians.

As was revealed in Sof Hashavua Magazine, The Jerusalem Post's Hebrew-language sister publication, John Kerry and his team, led by Martin Indyk, are already preparing the general draft of this agreement.

The US president said Saturday that this agreement is not intended to answer or solve all of the issues, but rather to give an outline of a final agreement.

When asked about the split among the Palestinians, he spoke of an "interim period," in which the people of Gaza will see the freedom and the good life of West Bank residents, and will desire to join the agreement.

The option on the table

On the Iranian issue, the US president was sharp, determined and clear. On the one hand, he declared that, "We did not recognize Iran's right to enrich uranium. Period." If the interim accord does not turn into a comprehensive agreement, he said, everything will return to how it was, and the international community will not recognize Iran's right to enrich uranium.

All options will be on the table, and I recommend not to take it lightly when an American president speaks of a military option.

But there was also a bad part to the good news. Obama clarified - in response to a question from former Military Intelligence head Amos Yadlin - that the comprehensive agreement with the Iranians must be based on safeguards against the possbility of Iran breaking out to a nuclear bomb. Obama recognized the right of the Iranians to have a limited nuclear program for peaceful purposes and the right to enrich, even a token amount, of uranium in their territory.

On the other hand, he said, the Iranians have no need to keep centrifuges in underground bunkers, they have no need for advanced-technology centrifuges, they have no need for such a large number of centrifuges and they do not need a heavy-water reactor for creating plutonium. In a perfect world, Obama said, the Iranians would fold and agree to dismantle their whole nuclear program.

As opposed to those who reject the Geneva agreement, he added, we know that the alternative was not to continue the pressure on the Iranians until they give in. They would not have folded, they would have continued their race to the bomb, and at the end of this six months, they would already be at striking distance. So, we succeeded in stopping this process.

Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman was also present in the building. As opposed to other Israeli politicians, who stood in line prior to the event to shake Obama's hand and take a picture with him, Liberman preferred to stay seated.

Afterward, he said that this running to take a picture with Obama was provincial and
embarrassing. I respect the president and the United States, Liberman said, but it does not seem respectable to stand in line to take a picture with him.

Obama gave a good and convincing performance. Everyone in the building was pleased. I'm not sure that at a certain house in Jerusalem, or in Caesarea, they were similarly satisfied.  The US president complimented Netanyahu a number of times, but did not hesitate to list the "tactical" disagreements between them.

Join Jerusalem Post Premium Plus now for just $5 and upgrade your experience with an ads-free website and exclusive content. Click here>>

Related Content

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu
August 31, 2014
Prime minister to Channel 1: I’ll be running again in next election

By Gil Stern Stern HOFFMAN

Cookie Settings