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Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Today's White House Meeting Between Trump and Netanyahu

President Trump is welcoming Israeli prime minister Netanyahu to the White House today.  It's great to see that for the first time in eight years, the President of the United States is again a friend of Israel.  President Obama did all he could to undermine Netanyahu.  Obama even interfered in the Israeli elections to try to help the opposition regain control.  Obama did what the Democrats claim the Russians did in our elections, except the effort by Obama was overt and much larger than anything claimed by the Democrats.  Obama's efforts to meddle in Israeli domestic politics failed miserably.  It's hard to win over voters who have seen you act negatively towards their country for year after year.  In many ways, the failure of Obama's meddling in Israeli politics was much like Obama's failure when he attempted to meddle in British politics on the Brexit vote.  The real question is how many Brits voted to leave the EU because they resented having a foreigner, the American president, tell them how they had to vote.  But let's get away from the meddlesome Obama days and back to today's meeting.

What's the best that could come from this get together?  Most likely, we could hope for a friendly and warm meeting with no discordant notes at the end.  We could also hope for a commitment restated by Israel to the search for peace, and a recognition stated by the USA that the main obstacle to peace is not Israeli "settlements" but rather Palestinian intransigence and terrorism.  For eight years, the Palestinians had no reason to negotiate; Obama was pressuring Israel all the time for them.  Abbas could be intransigent and pay no price; all he had to do was wait for Obama to force Israeli concessions.  If Trump makes clear that those days are over, it will place a burden on the Palestinians to move forward on their own. 

Actually, things have gotten worse for the Palestinians over the last eight years anyway.  The activities across the region by Iran and its proxies Hezbollah and the Assad regime have pushed the Sunni Arab countries into cooperation with Israel.  Egypt used to have a very cold peace with Israel; now the two cooperate on security matters daily.  The Saudis, Kuwaitis and others used to boycott everything Israeli.  Now there are ongoing meetings between the two sides behind the scenes.  The more Iran threatens the region, the greater will be the contacts and cooperation between Israel and the non-Palestinian Arabs.  At some point, the Palestinians may come to realize that they are losing their most important allies and that they need to make peace to prevent a total breach with those allies.

If President Trump makes clear to the Palestinians today that the USA is no longer going to act in a one-sided way, it will exponentially increase the pressure on the Palestinians to come back to the peace process in a real way.  It's possible that the result will be the opposite; the Palestinians could try a third terrorist uprising.  That's not very likely, however.  Hopefully, the Trump/Netanyahu meeting will go well and we will se positive impact on the peace process.

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