09/07/2010

Netanyahu’s visit to the White House

The meeting on Tuesday between U.S. President and the Prime Minister of Israel has been unusually positive given the differences and tensions that have existed for over a year between the two countries. Barack Obama called his interlocutor someone « willing to take risks for peace ». The last visit of Benjamin Netanyahu in March at the White House had received a cool reception from the U.S. President. And since then, nothing seemed to augur a better relation.

If there was no intrinsic change in the situation between the two countries, the contexts have changed meanwhile.

Obama is getting closer to mid-term, which requires him to think about his reelection. But the successes of his presidency are still thin, and are now overshadowed by the oil disaster, which is devastating the Gulf of Mexico. In such a critical time, he cannot afford to counter the pro-Israel lobby’s will. The latter is indeed permanently lobbying for a better Israeli-American relationship.

For his part, Netanyahu is determined to present himself as a man of peace. He wants to show its goodwill to the international community, and make it forget the unfortunate episode of the Gaza fleet. He also wants to put the responsibility for the failure of negotiations on the Palestinian Authority. The Prime Minister of Israel is furthermore under stress in his own government, where the extreme right fringes are supporting a resumption of the building in the settlements at the end of the moratorium, on the 26 of September.

The Palestinian Authority reacted to this meeting by reminding its position: « no negotiations without a halt in the building in the settlement. » It also stressed that the Israeli goodwill is for the moment only expressed by words, and that it now expected to see action.

At the end it is nevertheless possible to point a positive aspect out of this week’s meeting. Indeed all the parties agree finally on one thing: the indirect negotiations were unsuccessful and the results could only be obtained through direct talks between Israelis and Palestinians. However, this finding had already been established by most observers. Apart from this, this meeting does not appear to contain the roots of the resumption of the peace process, and seems more like an illusion meant to improve a situation which unfortunately does not change.

Nathalie Janne d’Othée