Hot on the tails of President Obama’s recent farewell to the G20 in Hangzhou, and what amounts to his farewell address to world politics at the UN, the President’s final foreign policy tour will now also include an encounter with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Obama’s staff has announced that the President will be meeting with Netanyahu on Wednesday, September 21, alongside his speech to the UN General Assembly. Amid growing questions regarding the integrity of the long-standing U.S.-Israeli security relationship in a tumultuous Middle East, as well as the largest security aid package ever granted by the United States, Obama will attempt to push forward his own vision of peace in the region, according to the New York Times.
The relationship between the United States and Israel has become increasingly strained as of late, especially given Barack Obama’s foreign policy objectives in the region. Nuclear agreements with Iran, vociferously protested by Israel, as well as Netanyahu’s perceived interference in American domestic politics, have led to growing tensions between the two leaders.
These tensions exploded, as Politico notes, when Benjamin Netanyahu agreed to address a joint session of Congress without informing the White House. In March, according to a separate article from Politico, the White House chided Netanyahu for cancelling a scheduled meeting with Obama through reporters, rather than by communicating directly with the White House, noting that it would have been “good manners” to do so.
Nevertheless, both Barack Obama and Benjamin Netanyahu have pushed back against suggestions that American-Israeli relations have chilled. Last week, the United States confirmed a $38 billion security aid package, the largest such package America has ever granted an ally, according to the New York Times, which leaders from both nations take as proof that the alliance has never been stronger.
Some Israelis, however, see the package as a defeat for Netanyahu. Ehud Barak, former Prime Minister of Israel, penned an opinion piece in the Washington Post stating that the strings attached to the aid package are unacceptable and proof of a deteriorating Israeli-American relationship, the blame for which he laid largely at the feet of Netanyahu. The conditions, including a bar on Israel seeking additional aid during the ten-year period and a requirement that Israel use the money only with American suppliers, led Barak to slam Netanyahu’s performance with Israel’s closest ally. Yeir Lapid, leader of the centrist Yesh Atid Party, claimed that “the only thing Israelis will remember from the deal is the unemployment line.”
Benjamin Netanyahu has struck back, calling such criticism “ingratitude.” Bloomberg reported that, according to Shaul Shay, director of Research at the Institute for Police and Strategy at the Interdisciplinary Center in Herzliya, much of the criticism is politically motivated and claims that Israel could have gotten more money are unfounded.
With America’s support for Israel reaffirmed by this deal, however, Obama will seek to push his own view for peace. According to White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest, “The meeting also will be an opportunity to discuss the need for genuine advancement of a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in the face of deeply troubling trends on the ground.”
Netanyahu has repeatedly opposed a two-state solution on the current terms. However, his spokesperson David Keyes has noted in an editorial to The Washington Post that Netanyahu supports a two-state solution, but that it is the Palestinian leadership who refuses to recognize any sort of Jewish state. These perspectives underscore the mutual mistrust Obama will have to overcome if he wishes to successfully push for his own vision for peace.
Amid chilled relations, disagreements on foreign policy, and a new security aid package that has met with mixed reactions, Obama and Netanyahu will no doubt discuss a wide range of issues in their final meeting and it remains unclear as to whether Obama will risk having electoral politics interfere with his call for peace. Obama’s final objective, however, is unclear. As the New York Times reports, Obama “has played his cards very close to his chest, not discussing his plans outside a tiny circle.”
What do you think about Obama’s plan to meet with Netanyahu? Do you think America’s relationship with Israel is as strong as ever, or is it weakening? Should the United States continue to aid Israel? Sound off in the comments and tell us what you think! For more CDA News, follow our tweets on Twitter and like us on Facebook.
By James Mayfield