Obama meeting: Second round in a long bout

Abbas's visit with Obama is likely to be much more cordial than that of Netanyahu.

By DAOUD KUTTAB
February 18, 2010 11:45
3 minute read.
Obama meeting: Second round in a long bout

abbas obama 248.88. (photo credit: AP)

 
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The long-awaited Obama-Netanyahu meeting has finally taken place. If this was a boxing match, one would probably have to score the latest round in the White House as a tie. A look at the post-summit transcripts shows that Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu stuck to his hard-line position: refusing to pronounce the words two-state solution, attempting to shift emphasis on Iran and reiterating the latest Israeli demand of the Palestinians, namely to accept Israel as the state of the Jewish people. (Ironically Jews themselves don't agree on who is a Jew, and Israel would clearly never accept to recognize Palestine as a Muslim country.) On the other hand US President Barack Obama also didn't shift his public position of supporting the road map and Annapolis process's calls for an independent Palestinian state. Obama also reiterated the call for a total end to Jewish settlement activities and for the need to pay attention to the situation in Gaza. Perhaps the best way to confirm that the meeting was nothing more than a tie is the way the US media dealt with it. The New York Times commissioned a junior journalist to cover it and ran the story on an inside page. It is true the story focused mostly on Iran and Palestine and even misrepresented Obama by saying that he set a deadline for Iran when he clearly said that he is against "an artificial deadline" for dealing with Iran. WHILE TO some Israelis a tie might be much better than a knockout, it is well known that Israel's long-term strategy can't afford Washington being neutral about Israel. With the rest of the world and all international organizations consistently calling on Israel to end its occupation, a publicly exposed disagreement between the most senior executive leaders is not in Israel's interest. If the Obama-Netanyahu round was a tie, the previous White House round between the US president and the king of Jordan was nothing but a clear victory for Palestinian and Arab rights. King Abdullah II met privately with the president, vice president, secretary of state and the speaker of the House in addition to speaking at think tanks and appearing on the major US media. A senior US official who attended the king's meetings told me that they were so successful that his talking points were sent out (with slight changes) to all US embassies as official US foreign policy. TWO MORE ROUNDS are expected before the end of May. Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas is due in Washington next week and Eygptian leader Hosni Mubarak will travel to the US thereafter. Abbas's meeting with Obama is likely to be much more cordial than the Netanyahu visit. Armed with a newly sworn in Palestinian government under the leadership of the pro-US Prime Minister Salaam Fayad, Abbass will able to represent a moderate Palestinian position that is working hard to address the various demands of the international community. PA police continue to be trained at high professional levels in Jordan and are returning to the West Bank to ensure the rule of law. US as well as Israeli military experts are publicly praising the improvements of the new PA security. The change of the minister of interior in the newly sworn in government reflects yet one more signal that is being transmitted to the international community about the seriousness of the Abbas-Fayad government in this issue. Washington will not roll out its Mideast policies until June, when Obama makes his long-anticipated speech in Egypt. Whether choosing the date of June 4 is a coincidence or not, for Arab and Moslem peoples any successful US policy toward the region must reflect the Arab peace plan which offers 57 Arab and Muslim countries willing to have normal relations with Israel if it accepts to return to its June 4, 1967 borders. Anything less than that will be seen as an Israeli technical victory and a knockout to the possibilities of long-term peace in the region. The writer is general manager of Community Media Network Radio Al Balad.

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