Comments President Barack Obama made in Turkey yesterday, reiterating President George W. Bush’s call for an independent Palestinian state, has placed his administration on a collision course with Israel’s new government.
His comments stand in stark contrast with those made by Israel’s new foreign minister, Avigdor Lieberman, who has taken a firm stand against further Israeli withdrawals or concessions.
“It is astonishing to see every time anew how the U.S. president on-duty learns by means of trial and error how to conduct himself in the Middle East,” said Dr. Mordechai Keidar, senior fellow at the Begin-Sadat Center in Bar Ilan University. “Obama still thinks that the Palestinians want a European-style democratic state and hasn’t learned that Hamas envisions a state that is more reminiscent of Iran than it is of Jordan.”
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s personal envoy to the Palestinians, Yizhak Molcho, has participated in consultations the new prime minister has been holding to reassess Israel’s stance in the peace process. These meetings come as Mr. Netanyahu further develops his policies toward the Palestinians.
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He will likely visit Washington during the first week of May when he is supposed to present Mr. Obama with a consolidated plan addressing how his government will handle relations with the Palestinians, but that has not been firmly set.
The Prime Minister’s Bureau is evaluating whether or not to accept an American invitation to visit that week, which could afford Mr. Netanyahu with an opportunity to attend the American Israel Public Affairs Committee’s (AIPAC) annual conference. It also is considering postponing having the prime minister meet Mr. Obama, so he can better prepare himself.
Mr. Netanyahu has also received an invitation from Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak to meet him in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt for a conference. The prime minister has thanked him and said a firm date would be set in the next few days.
The Prime Minister’s Bureau said that the two leaders stressed the ties of friendship between their two countries and promised to continue them and even to strengthen them.
“Peace between the two countries (Egypt and Israel) is of supreme importance, and the sides have a common interest in intensifying the peace and broadening it to repel the threats against it,” Mr. Netanyahu said last night.
David Bedein can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org