Bibi woos Amer­ica

The Jewish Chronicle - - NEWS - BY ANSHEL PF­EF­FER

IS­RAELI PRIME Min­is­ter Ben­jamin Ne­tanyahu called on Jews across the globe to unite to “se­cure the Jewish state” on Tues­day at the an­nual Jewish Fed­er­a­tions of North Amer­ica Gen­eral As­sem­bly in Wash­ing­ton.

Mr Ne­tanyahu told his au­di­ence of more than 3,000 Jewish rep­re­sen­ta­tives: “No mat­ter what dis­agree­ments there have been within the Jewish com­mu­nity, main­tain­ing the unity of our peo­ple is of para­mount im­por­tance.

“Now more than ever we must work to­gether to unite the Jewish peo­ple and se­cure the Jewish state.”

Fresh from his meet­ing with US Pres­i­dent Barack Obama the day be­fore, Mr Ne­tanyahu used his speech to reaf­firm Is­rael’s “un­break­able bond” with the United States.

He said: “Is­rael has no bet­ter friend than Amer­ica and Amer­ica has no bet­ter friend than Is­rael.”

IT WAS, said Ben­jamin Ne­tanyahu af­ter the two-and-a-half hour meet­ing with Barack Obama in the White House on Mon­day, the best meet­ing yet be­tween the two lead­ers.

As they had not met for more than 13 months, and the in­ter­ven­ing pe­riod had been one of the most dif­fi­cult for the Is­raeli-US strate­gic re­la­tion­ship, the bar had been set quite low.

How­ever, the meet­ing did seem to achieve its main ob­jec­tive: it put ties back on track and set a more cor­dial tone for the last year of Mr Obama’s pres­i­dency.

No one is ex­pect­ing the two men to be­come the friends they have failed to be for the past seven years, but each of them at least said what was re­quired.

Se­nior US of­fi­cials said that while they no longer be­lieved there was any prospect of a peace treaty with the Pales­tini­ans dur­ing Mr Obama’s term, they ex­pected Is­rael to take steps to en­sure that a two-state so­lu­tion is still vi­able.

Mr Ne­tanyahu said at the start of the meet­ing: “I re­main com­mit­ted to a vi­sion of peace of two states for two peo­ples: a de­mil­i­tarised Pales­tinian state that recog­nises the Jewish state,” de­liv­er­ing on a rhetor­i­cal level at least.

For his part, Mr Obama said: “As I’ve said re­peat­edly, the se­cu­rity of Is­rael is one of my top for­eign pol­icy pri­or­i­ties,” adding that “it is my strong be­lief that Is­rael has not just the right but an obli­ga­tion to pro­tect it­self”.

Much of the meet­ing was de­voted to ad­dress­ing their joint con­cerns over the de­te­ri­o­rat­ing sit­u­a­tion in Syria.

How­ever, it would be pre­ma­ture to in­ter­pret the bon­homie as a sign that the is­sues be­tween the two coun­tries have been set­tled.

For Is­rael, life af­ter the Iran deal means ac­tively check­ing that the Is­lamic Repub­lic con­firms to all the lim­i­ta­tions on its nu­clear pro­gramme.

The Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion will de­mand from the Is­raelis more con­crete steps on the Pales­tinian front and prob­a­bly some ev­i­dence to show that Is­rael is still com­mit­ted to the two-state so­lu­tion. Even on the non-con­tentious is­sue of pre­serv­ing Is­rael’s “qual­i­ta­tive mil­i­tary edge”, it is still un­clear how much cash the US is will­ing to put to­wards new weapons sys­tems for the Jewish state.

Is­rael has re­quested that the mil­i­tary aid, cur­rently an an­nual pay­ment of $3.1 bil­lion, be ex­panded by as much as $2 bil­lion. Ad­min­is­tra­tion of­fi­cials have hinted that Is­rael will have to make do with a much smaller rise.

The main mes­sage com­ing out of the Obama-Ne­tanyahu meet­ing, how­ever, is more about tone than sub­stance.

It was above all a clear in­di­ca­tion that in his last year of of­fice, Mr Obama is not plan­ning any new diplo­matic ini­tia­tives in the Mid­dle East, not while he has Syria to deal with. Nor is he in­ter­ested in more tension with his Is­raeli coun­ter­part. It is now of­fi­cially elec­tion year in the US and he does not want to harm Hil­lary Clin­ton’s cam­paign with a cri­sis with Is­rael. In a col­umn for the For­ward last week, Mrs Clin­ton wrote that if elected, she would in­vite Mr Ne­tanyahu to Wash­ing­ton in the first month of her pres­i­dency. He is al­ready count­ing down the days un­til he meets a new pres­i­dent in the Oval Of­fice.


Patch­ing up for the cam­eras: Ben­jamin Ne­tanyahu and Barack Obama shake hands, hav­ing not met for 13 months

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