What To Expect On July 6
Now that the Independence Day Holiday is over with, the White House is back to business as usual. The first item on the agenda is a major diplomatic meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on July 6; a meeting that will hopefully go much better than the previous two this year (one resulted in an embarrassing moment for Obama on Israeli settlements, and the other added to an already frosty relationship between Washington and Tel Aviv). What a way to get back to reality.
As usual, pundits and talking-heads across the political spectrum are gearing up for the meeting and speculating about what the final result between the two men will be. So naturally, I have to add my two cents in, although I’m neither a pundit or a talking-head…just a loud mouthed and opinionated blogger.
Nothing substantial can happen in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict unless the United States and Israel get on the same page on the most basic requirements for peace. Administration officials are acutely aware of this, so tomorrow’s diplomatic event will probably spend most of its time and energy on bridging these policy gaps, or at least portraying to the world that the U.S. and Israel are working towards the same goal.
Washington’s demands towards Israel and the Palestinians are still the same as they have ever been. With respect to Israel, the United States wants Netanyahu to cease illegal settlement building in the West Bank (including East Jerusalem), and review his Gaza policy, which has created a devastating humanitarian crisis for over one million Palestinians. Mahmoud Abbas’ job is to put an end to Palestinian incitement in his area of control (the West Bank). But to the dismay of many and to the surprise of none, all of these requirements are still unmet, for a number of specific reasons.
Prime Minister Netanyahu is afraid of taking the first big steps for peace, out of fear that his right-wing political allies would stab him in the back and facture his governing coalition. On the other side, Mahmoud Abbas has been powerless to eliminate the old Palestinian mindset of rejectionism in the West Bank. But this is not entirely his fault; there is still a large cadre of 20th century Palestinians in the P.A. that are suspicious of whatever Israel decides to do.
To think that a single meeting in Washington with the Israeli Prime Minister will solve any of these problems is a façade. In fact, it will be surprising if the Obama-Netanyahu meeting has any lasting effect on the conflict at all.
The funny thing is that Obama and Netanyahu understand this, so the July 6 event at the White House should perhaps be seen more as a P.R. stunt than the start of a new determination on Mideast peace.
My prediction: 1) the meeting will go well, both men will hold a joint press conference reiterating their friendship and their desire to end the conflict, and neoconservatives will end up blasting President Obama for not supporting the Israelis unconditionally. 2) Israel’s settlement policy will stay the same, but Netanyahu will end of scrapping some really big projects in East Jerusalem and the West Bank to show Obama he’s trying to act like a responsible partner. And 3) the Arab League will re-endorse the 2002 Arab Peace Initiative.
In other words, more of the same.
-Daniel R. DePetris
**Comments courtesy of Matthew Duss and David Halperin at FP.com**