Former Ambassador: Netanyahu-Obama Meeting Will Be ‘Most Successful Ever’ Due to New Mideast Realities
A former Israeli ambassador to the United States, Zalman Shoval, told Israel’s NRG News on Tuesday that seismic shifts in the Middle East have made it clear to the Obama administration that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is not the cause of instability.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is set to meet with President Barack Obama for an hour on Wednesday, in the tenth such session between them. “‘More than with any other foreign leader else'” Shoval said, quoting Obama.
According to the White House, “Prime Minister Netanyahu’s visit is a demonstration of the deep and enduring bonds between the United States and Israel, and our close consultations on a range of regional issues.”
Shoval, who served as ambassador in Washington from 1990-1993, and again from 1998-2000, is convinced that “the meeting between Obama and Netanyahu will be the most successful among them.”
Netanyahu’s main objective is to persuade Obama not to allow Iran to negotiate breaks on curbing its nuclear program. While Netanyahu and his team have no solid information that Obama is going to go easy on the Islamic Republic in return for Iran’s assistance in the war against ISIS, repeated leaks and other indications reaching Jerusalem led to the conclusion that the US may, in fact, adopt such a stance.
Israel’s position is that no deal is better than a bad deal with Iran, since any agreement that would leave Iran an ability to enrich uranium to make a nuclear weapon – a prospect which Israel considers an existential danger, and a major threat to the Middle East, and the world — is unacceptable.
In addition, the two will discuss the Palestinian issue and other Middle East-related issues. Obama and Netanyahu recently held a telephone discussion during the IDF’s Operation Protective Edge in Gaza which, reportedly, turned ugly when Obama charged Israel with causing civilian deaths during Air Force bombing strikes against Hamas targets.
It is also believed that Netanyahu will present Obama with updated data on the organizational affiliations of 2,000 Arab casualties of the fighting, which Israel estimates that more than half of which were terrorists.
“The American administration now understands much of the problem in the Middle East is not related to the Israel – Palestinian conflict,” Shoval said in an interview on Tuesday.
“If, in the past, the conflict was the center of their foreign policy, now they understand what is happening in Syria, Iraq, Libya, Yemen and other places is not connected to the Palestinian Authority,” according to Shoval.
“Therefore, the pressure on Israel has decreased. An example of this was five days before Obama’s speech at the United Nations, where he explicitly said that the situation in the Middle East is not related to Israel. This is actually a real revolution in American policy and closed the conversation. In my estimation Obama and Netanyahu will admit that in their talks.”
While the bad chemistry between the two has often overshadowed the relationship, “…the situation has changed, and the leaders of countries change their position according to their national interests. Now, American interests are far more congruent with Israeli interests and so Obama will likely be more comfortable with the Prime Minister at the meeting.
“You could even say that this meeting will be the most successful among the two men,” Shoval said.
“Because of the American coalition against ISIS, Obama and the West seek to give relief to Iran in the nuclear field. Israel will need to be on guard on this issue.
“However, the remaining issues: the lack of stability in the region because of Islamic terrorism, the Palestinian refusal in relation to the peace talks – the United States heard this in [Palestinian Authority President] Mahmoud Abbas’ speech at the UN and are very angry at what they heard,” according to Shoval.
“American anger is so great, that it is clear that if [Abbas] tries to promote their stance at the UN, the United States will sharply block him. Which is to say that Obama understands the Israeli position more now.
“So there will be no tense private conversation between the two,” Shoval believes.
“It seems very important that the two sides make a great effort to get closer and to work things out. It is not necessarily so that they’ll be chemistry between the two men, but that the common interest will prevail and connect them.”