Defying enormous expectations, the White House meeting between President Barack Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu was a big let down. Obama wants a Palestinian state, a precondition to solve the decades-long Arab-Israeli conflict. Netanyahu just mentioned an “arrangement”. Obama wants to talk to the leadership of Iran. Netanyahu tried all the time to change the subject from Palestine to – non-existent – Iranian nuclear weapons. Pepe Escobar warns about the danger of the powerful Israel lobby in Washington hijacking the terms of the debate and helping Netanyahu to derail Obama’s strategy.
BENJAMIN NETANYAHU, ISRAELI PRIME MINISTER: We share the same goal.
PEPE ESCOBAR, SENIOR ANALYST, TRNN: No, you don’t. This may be the understatement of the year. President Barack Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu did not agree on virtually anything important.
BARACK OBAMA, US PRESIDENT: To achieve a two-state solution in which Israelis and Palestinians are living side by side in peace and security.
ESCOBAR: So Obama, first of all, wants a Palestinian state. He knows that’s the absolute precondition to solve the Arab-Israeli conflict. And he wants it during his first term at the White House. Then Obama needs Iran, because he wants a smoother withdrawal from Iraq and less of a mess in Afghanistan. Iran, by the way, accepts a two-state solution if the Palestinians want it.
NETANYAHU: If we resume negotiations as we plan to do, then I think that the Palestinians will have to recognize Israel as a Jewish state.
ESCOBAR: Jewish state? Israel is a multicultural state. There are 500,000 non-Jewish Russians and Ukrainians in Israel. Twenty percent of the population is Arab. Very religious Jews, they’re actually a minority. And that’s like demanding the world to accept the US as a Christian state.
NETANYAHU: I think we can envision an arrangement where Palestinians and Israelis live side by side in dignity, in security, and in peace.
ESCOBAR: Arrangement? This is Bibispeak for settlements expanding forever on Palestinian land and no Palestinian state. Israeli settlers are all over Bibi’s government.
OBAMA: Israel is going to have to take some difficult steps as well. We have to make progress on settlements. And settlements have to be stopped in order for us to move forward.
ESCOBAR: Bibi won’t fight these colonizers. He’ll keep what he says is the natural growth of Israel’s settlements. And he won’t share Jerusalem with the Palestinians. East Jerusalem is part of Palestine. The Israeli squatters, they have been colonizing the West Bank since 1967. The UN, the whole world for that matter, everybody knows this is an illegal occupation and colonization.
NETANYAHU: I want to make it clear that we don’t want to govern the Palestinians. We want to live in peace with them. We want them to govern themselves, absent a handful of powers that could endanger the state of Israel.
ESCOBAR: The Likud Party doesn’t need Palestinians. Its agenda is to grab, as it is grabbing Palestinian land and Palestinian natural resources. With Bibi and Barak on a collision course, Bibi’s strategy is always to change the subject.
NETANYAHU: The worst danger we face is that Iran would develop nuclear military capabilities. It threatens the modern Arab regimes in the Middle East. It threatens US interests worldwide.
ESCOBAR: Bibi wants to bomb Iran and try to destroy its nuclear plants. This is exactly what would push Iran to go for a nuclear weapon, something that it’s not doing, according to the latest US intelligence, not to mention that Iran has the reach to make life for the US a living hell worse than it already is, in both Iraq and Afghanistan. According to the latest IAEA report, Iran can produce low-enriched uranium at the level of less than 5 percent. One needs 90 percent to start building a nuclear device. But war on Iran is still not off Obama’s table, even though the head of the IAEA, Mohamed ElBaradei, is very alarmed. US corporate media, oh, they love playing up the Iranian threat. So Bibi and his right-wing government, they will keep doing everything to change the subject from Palestine. In articles such as these, very rare in the US. This shows why. Bibi’s Uterrified that Iran will engage in serious negotiations. In this case, Iran will insist on the Middle East as a nuclear-weapon-free zone. This would mean Israel [inaudible] the worst-kept secret of the last forty years, that Israel is a nuclear power. Israel might have to shut down its own Dimona reactor as Iran stops enriching uranium at its Natanz plant. Iran has signed the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, the NPT; Israel has not. Israel simply cannot demand that Iran stops enriching uranium. In this case, Israel would have to give up its 150 nuclear warheads. Some in the US have tried to dig deeper inside Bibi’s mind. But this still follows a very clever Israel lobby agenda. The idea is to make Bibi sound pragmatic and acceptable to a large American audience, even though, if we read this article very carefully, Bibi sounds more of apocalyptic psycho than Ahmadinejad. So the Bibi line is that progress on the Palestinian front only happens after dealing with the, I quote, “existential threat” of the Iranian nuclear program.
OBAMA: If there is a linkage between Iran and the Israeli-Palestinian peace process, I personally believe it actually runs the other way: to the extent that we can make peace with the Palestinians and between the Palestinians and the Israelis, then I actually think it strengthens our hand in the international community in dealing with a potential Iranian threat.
ESCOBAR: The road map anyway seems to be clear: a little talk, a deadline, then more sanctions. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, she has promised, I quote, “crippling sanctions” if nothing happens before the deadline. But the State Department, they deny there is a deadline. But, in fact, this is what is really worrying.
OBAMA: We’re not going to have talks forever. We’re not going to create a situation in which talks become an excuse for inaction while Iran proceeds with developing and deploying a nuclear weapon.
ESCOBAR: Obama seems to assume that Iran is developing a nuclear weapon. And buried in the press conference, the Barak-Bibi press conference, the transcript, there’s this nugget. Netanyahu is saying to Obama, “I very much appreciate, Mr. President, your firm commitment to ensure that Iran does not develop nuclear military capability” and also your statement “that you’re leaving all options on the table.” Is Barack being played by Bibi at the Israeli lobby? The signs are ominous. This document, written by the neocons at the Bipartisan Policy Center [Meeting the Challenge: U.S. Policy Toward Iranian Nuclear Development], is no less than a road map to war on Iran. And it was signed by Dennis Ross, the State Department point man on Iran. And at the latest AIPAC meeting in Washington, the focus was on this bill, a [“PRAW-jih-dee”] of doublethink disguising even harsher sanctions on Iran, banning US companies from providing Iran with refined petroleum products, and punishing European companies if they do it. What kind of dialogue is that? So what’s the bottom line? Obama wants a peace deal in Palestine; Bibi doesn’t. Obama is willing to talk to Iran; Bibi isn’t. It remains to be seen how Obama may convince Bibi that the answer to every Israeli problem is not to go on a bombing spree. Obama talks to the Muslim world in Cairo in early June. There couldn’t be a better time to tell the Muslim world, and the whole world, for that matter, that he really means business.
Please note that TRNN transcripts are typed from a recording of the program; The Real News Network cannot guarantee their complete accuracy.