Obama Supports Full Israeli Withdrawal? Words vs. Actions
President Obama’s announcement in favour of withdrawal to the lines of 1967 was surprising, particularly as it was said mere hours before his meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Washington.
Advisors to the American president obviously knew that the announcement would invite a counter-response by the most right-wing prime minister in the history of Israel. “Blunt” was the definition of analysts close to the White House: without diplomatic language, the prime minister responded that he has no intention or ability of returning to the lines of 4 June 1967, for both security and demographic reasons.
Did President Obama wish for confrontation with Netanyahu? Are we at the beginning of a crisis in US-Israeli relations? We are also one year before elections in the United States, and the Democratic party will soon require the traditional donations of the Jewish and pro-Israeli capitalists.
There is no doubt that the differences in approach between the two countries are real, and at conclusion of the meeting with Netanyahu, Obama even warned that “the primary differences of opinion with Israel remain regarding the manner for reaching peace in the Middle East.” No more and no less! While the Americans think that peace requires an Israeli withdrawal to the lines of 4 June 1967, the Israeli prime minister believes that peace in the region will be obtained by an expansion of settlements. Minor differences….and despite this, it paradoxically appears that the declaration of Obama was said for the good of the Israeli state, because after the declarations will come actions, and especially the planned September vote in the United Nations General Assembly.
There is a foundation to believe that the American declarations concerning withdrawal to the 1967 lines come to please the Arab states and the Arab street, to show them that the United States does not stand unconditionally behind Israeli policies; in this sense the White House invited the blunt response of Netanyahu and counted on it. Now, Obama has free reign to torpedo the decision of the United Nations concerning a Palestinian state in the borders of 4 June.
“Words don’t cost money”, and of course Obama and Clinton estimate that Israel will soon require practical assistance from the United States in the international arena. It is not difficult to bet that in this test, the United States and its president will stand by Israel. One does not need to love conspiracy theories to understand that beyond the mutual lack of sympathy between Obama and Netanyahu, there exists coordination between them and a sort of division of labour. One speaks against settlements and the other immediately builds 1,400 new housing units in settlements.
It is possible to speak about a crisis between two allies only and when Washington will impose sanctions on Israel, for example if it will delay military assistance for several months. The end of days? Not necessarily: When in 1991 George Bush the father encountered the refusal of Yitzhak Shamir to announce a freezing of settlements, he froze bank guarantees worth NIS 13 billion dollars that were promised by Congress, and the money remained in the United States until Shamir fell and was replaced by the Rabin government. American pressure is possible, but there is great doubt if Obama will use it. His seemingly far-reaching statements are no more than a cover for the expected American support of Israel in the United Nations General Assembly in September.