NETANYAHU AT THE WHITE HOUSE: Not Yet Change We Can Believe In

By Phyllis Bennis, Institute For Policy Studies, May 20, 2009

Overall, yesterday's White House meeting between President Barack Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu has to be seen as a draw. As former U.S. ambassador to Israel and Obama adviser Daniel Kurtzer noted before the meeting, "for different but complementary reasons, both Obama and Netanyahu do not want this meeting to fail." And it didn't. There was no public acknowledgement of strategic differences between them, the tone was friendly and upbeat, the U.S.-Israeli "special relationship" re-emerged unchanged and intact.

At a broader level, the meeting provides an indication that the Obama administration real policy towards Israel - including the existence and amount of any U.S. pressure on Israel to meet any U.S. political demands or even implementation of existing Israeli commitments - is, at least for now, going to remain behind-the-scenes. The reality that the U.S. is still the financial, military, diplomatic and political superpower patron on which Israel depends was not reflected in the press conference that followed the meeting.

Certainly, this creates challenges for all those - in the U.S., in the region, and internationally - who are trying to bring about real change in U.S. policy. The reality is there will not likely be an easier time for Obama in the future if he intends to bring any real pressure to bear on Israel towards his stated goal of a two-state solution.

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