Netanyahu brings starkly different vision to Obama's White House
While President Obama has voiced support for pro-democracy uprisings across the Middle East, the instability has made Israel's Netanyahu wary of making concessions for peace.
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"Just as Americans have a responsibility to understand Israel’s anxieties and fears during an tumult time in the region, it's also incumbent on an Israeli prime minister to demonstrate some courage and creativity in the peace process, otherwise the US is left trying to fend off other initiatives without something to work with,’’ he says.
Indeed, Netanyahu, who will address the pro-Israel lobby American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) and Congress on Tuesday, needs to keep in stride with US policy on the region if the two allies are to be able to head off a Palestinian campaign for United Nations recognition of statehood.
Fresh gesture toward Palestinians expected next week
The US shares Israel’s skittishness about the Palestinian campaign in the UN, which could upend a decades-old American policy of seeking peace deals through bilateral talks rather than international decisions enforced on the sides.
"Netanyahu wants to avoid turning the paradigm of peacemaking upside down, whereby the Palestinian trajectory seems more to be about statehood rather than negotiations," says David Makovsky, a fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy. "The key is to have a joint strategy and to stave off this change in paradigm, and the way that the US thinks you can do it is to come forward with a concrete ideas where you can demonstrate to the Palestinians you are serious."
Mr. Netanyahu may make some headway on that May 24, when he is expected to unveil a fresh gesture toward the Palestinians in his address to a joint session of Congress.
In a speech to Israel's parliament a week earlier, Netanyahu laid out his principles for a peace agreement. He rejected sharing Jerusalem, a nonstarter for the Palestinians. Others, however, saw his emphasis on Israel’s "blocs" of settlements as a hint that he’d be willing to concede most of the West Bank.
Much common ground remains, however
Last year, Netanyahu and Obama sparred in public over their approach to the peace process – especially settlement expansion – bringing diplomatic ties to a two-decade low.
After Obama declared in his speech Thursday that a future Palestinian state should be based on the 1967 border with Israel, the Israeli leader issued a barbed retort arguing that the line leaves Israel exposed to attack.
Disputes over borders aside, the US and Israel still have much common ground. Obama said Israel should be a Jewish state and has a right to insist on stringent security arrangements as part of a peace deal before getting negotiations over Jerusalem and refugees.
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