Wednesday, May 20, 2009

The Philadelphia Bulletin: Israeli PM Called Meeting With Obama Successful

by David Bedein

Netanyahu Still Questions Timetable For Iran Talks

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu held a briefing yesterday regarding Monday’s meeting with President Barack Obama.

The prime minister called the meeting successful as far as he was concerned.

First and foremost, it is clear Mr. Netanyahu had interpreted Mr. Obama’s seemingly contradictory words relating to a timetable for dialogue with the Iranians over their nuclear program as a deadline in every sense of the word.

Although Mr. Obama said he would not commit to an artificial deadline, he made it clear the U.S. was giving itself until the end of the year to make progress in talks with Tehran.

“If only these negotiations succeed,” Mr. Netanyahu said. “Obama talked about re-evaluating at the end of the year. Is that a deadline or not?”

He said setting the end of the year as a clear target date for re-evaluating progress equaled setting a time limit for the dialogue.

The prime minister left the meeting with Mr. Obama pleased, particularly relating to what was agreed upon on Iran.

“I didn’t ask him for a green light or an orange light,” the prime minister said. “What’s important is that we reached agreement on a commitment to the outcome - that Iran not develop nuclear military capability. He stated this clearly.”

As for the Palestinian issue, it was apparent that the White House meeting did not exactly end according to Mr. Netanyahu’s expectations. The prime minister again clarified his belief that discussions with regard to establishing a Palestinian state should focus on restrictions that would guarantee Israeli security.

“All those who talk about the solution don’t stress the constraints enough - that it not have an army, about how to ensure that this be an entity that does not threaten Israel. That is the emphasis for us,” he said.

Mr. Netanyahu said the meeting between them had taken place in a very friendly atmosphere.

“At first, there was a meeting of an hour and 45 minutes, and that was very important to solidify the personal connection between us,” the prime minister said.

The president’s verbal ability and good English definitely helped, but it was not the only thing that solidified this important connection between the leaders.

“There is a deep commitment to the connection between Israel and the U.S.,” Mr. Netanyahu said, summing up the summit.

Predictions About Tense Meeting Were Proved Wrong

The Israeli political establishment had braced for a disastrous meeting between Messrs. Netanyahu and Obama.

Once the results of the meeting became known last night, members of the prime minister’s Likud Party expressed their happiness with the outcome.

“The predictions about a tense meeting were disproved,” said Likud Knesset member Ophir Okunis, who heads the party’s public response team. “The Obama-Netanyahu meeting proved once again the might of the relationship between the United States and Israel.

“The government is committed to the peace process with the Palestinians not on the basis of two states for two peoples, but, rather, on the basis of Palestinian recognition of Israel as a Jewish state.”

However, Dr. Aryeh Eldad, a Knesset member of the opposition National Union Party, said he was troubled by Mr. Obama’s statements about Iran.

“There is cause for real concern because the United States is shrugging off its historic duty to guarantee Israel’s security. The United States is willing, in practice, to resign itself to a nuclear Iran, so that Israel has been left facing Iran alone.”

Dr. Eldad said that Israel might not have any choice, in light of Mr. Obama’s statements, but to destroy Iran’s nuclear facilities itself.

Labor Knesset member Yuli Tamir said: “Netanyahu has insisted on ignoring the unequivocal policy that has been introduced by the president of the United States, who regards the principle of two states for two peoples to be the key for stability in the Middle East...”

See this story in the Philadelphia Bulletin
See this story at Israel Behind the News

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