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Listen Bibi: Obama Sends a Strong Message

(Version anglaise seulement)
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President Obama traveled to Turkey and took the opportunity of an address to the parliament, of that Muslim nation, to send a strong message to the new administration in Israel. 



His excellent speech was another signal that America’s approach to the Muslim world would be far different from that of the Bush administration. There would be no war against Islam, after all, he reminded them, there were Muslim members of his own extended family. The United States had no interest in pursuing a sterile “war on terrorism” but would engage the Muslim world with “mutual respect” and a search for “common ground”.

Clearly the President’s vision of security in the Middle East required having a broad range of Muslim allies to fight al Qaeda and, if necessary, isolate an intransigent Iran. In order to further this vision, Obama has no use for the obstructionist rhetoric which has come from the Netanyahu government.

Israel’s new Prime Minister has publicly renounced a two state solution, in favor of some unspecified economic plan which would result in something far less than Palestinian sovereignty. His Foreign Minister, the demagogic Avigdor Lieberman went even further, in his induction ceremony, warning that there would be no concessions from Israel which would follow the maxim that “if you want peace, prepare for war.” He explicitly stated that his government would not be bound by the Annapolis process.

If the Palestinians wanted peace discussions “they must first of all confront terror, take control of Gaza and demilitarize Hamas,” an agenda which the IDF has not yet been able to fulfill. Tzip Livni the leader of the opposition could not contain herself and immediately retorted: “you’ve convinced me that I was right not to join the government.”

It was following these retrograde pronouncements from Israel that President Obama reaffirmed, in front of Muslim parliamentarians, that: “The United States supports the goal of two states, Israel and Palestine living side by side in peace and security….Both Israelis and Palestinians must live up to the commitments they have made.” He certainly meant that Israel’s new government must entertain no thoughts of not engaging the Palestinians and working together towards a two state solution.

Of course Bibi and his government may from necessity change their rhetorical stance. Israel needs the United States and the United States needs Muslim allies who will not be kept on her side, unless there is discernible progress towards a Palestinian state. The old Israeli plea that she is a partner with the United States in a war against terror will not resonate in the Obama White House. The Christian Right and neo-con allies of Bibi no longer enjoy easy access to the Washington corridors of power. Of course, there are still powerful Americans who do support the agenda of the Israeli right but their influence is diminished.

President Obama sent a clear message to Bibi and Lieberman to back off the tough rhetoric. It remains to be seen whether he will require more from them than restraint in their speech. Israel’s most serious threat is not from the Palestinians but from Iran and, if it comes to the worst, when she feels forced, rightly or wrongly, to attack Iran’s nuclear capacity she cannot do it without United States consent and weaponry. Thus, Bibi & Co. will have to keep this firmly in mind and not undermine the Obama administration’s security plans for the entire Middle East. Israel’s own security lies in peace making and not with the bluster of intransigence.


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