While Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu finishes his trip to Washington with a visit to the Pentagon today, the meeting he held yesterday with President Obama should lay to rest any doubts about the Administration's commitment to Israel. After their meetings, the President and Prime Minister made it clear that this relationship is strong, with Netanyahu using language directly rebuffing Obama's staunchest domestic critics. In the clearest of terms, Netanyahu endorsed Obama's commitment to Israel and praised him for his efforts to enhance Israeli security vis-à-vis Iran and in the Middle East. Obama also reiterated his commitment to Israeli security through the prism of Middle East peace, calling for direct negotiations that will pave the way for a two state solution, a goal that will advance American security interests in the region, secure Israel's long term survival, and meet Palestinian aspirations. While Obama will continue to have domestic critics on his Middle East policy, they should take pause. Not only has his approach to the Middle East and Israel been endorsed by Netanyahu, but his policy to forge a two state solution also remains viable.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu arrives in Washington today to meet with President Obama. There has been much talk of tension and conflict in the run-up to this meeting. President Obama, like Presidents Bush and Clinton before him, has argued forcefully that the only way to create a lasting peace is through the formation of an independent Palestinian state. After witnessing the failure of the Bush administration’s isolation and bluster approach to stem Iran’s nuclear development, as well as the extremely dangerous repercussions military action would have on our troops in neighboring Iraq and Afghanistan, the Obama administration has sought a new course based on serious diplomatic engagement.
A series of high-level meetings this week points up the interconnections in the Obama administration’s comprehensive strategy for the Middle East. The most high-profile of these meetings will take place between President Obama and Israeli President Shimon Peres, while Secretary Gates is in the Middle East meeting with Egyptian and Saudi leaders. The new approach rejects the neoconservative trope that the road to Jerusalem goes through Baghdad or Tehran or Damascus. There is no quick route to peace in the Middle East; the road goes through all of these places, but it ultimately begins and ends in Jerusalem.
The Obama administration’s announcement that it will be inviting Prime Minister Netanyahu, President Mubarak and President Abbas to separate talks at the White House is the latest sign that Obama has put the Middle East peace process high on his agenda. This path will not be easy. The integrated Middle East strategy advocated by President Obama is the one that best serves American interests.