JERUSALEM – There may be “some differences in approach” between the White House and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, the Israeli leader’s national security adviser acknowledged ahead of a highly anticipated meeting between the two tomorrow.
“There are many hurdles on the road to living side by side in peace with the Palestinians,” continued Uzi Arad, pointing to the takeover of the Gaza Strip in 2007 by the Hamas terrorist organization.
“That is the presence of a huge terrorist infrastructure that was put in place, established precisely at the time when Israel evacuated Gaza and allowed the Palestinians to rule themselves,” he said.
Arad, a close Netanyahu aide, said the threat posed by Iran will be central to tomorrow’s discussions.
“This is an existential matter,” he said. “Iran is constantly advancing toward a nuclear capability, and joint efforts with the [Obama] administration to prevent this will be at the center of the discussion.”
He said Netanyahu and Obama will discuss formulating policies working to diminish the Iranian threat.
“Both countries’ goal of blocking Iran from achieving that capability definitely will be at the heart of the talks, and I imagine there will be a detailed discussion of the most effective means to achieve this aim,” Arad said.
“There is a sense of urgency on our side” said Arad, adding Netanyahu will be “emphatic in emphasizing that sense of urgency.”
An aide to Netanyahu, speaking to WND from Washington, said the Israeli leader does not expect any public clashes with Obama. He did say, however, that Netanyahu will express his concern that Obama’s talks with Tehran could be used by the Iranians as a smokescreen to develop nuclear weapons. The aide said Netanyahu will recommend setting firm deadlines for Iran to show serious progress.
Regarding talks with the Palestinian Authority, the aide said Netanyahu will emphasize creating economic opportunities for the PA and the importance of bringing so-called moderate Arab countries, particularly Jordan, into the fold.
Netanyahu will stress that it is dangerous for Israel to create a Palestinian state before Iran has been neutralized, pointing to Tehran’s sponsorship of Palestinian terrorism, particular of Hamas, the aide said. Netanyahu will politely reject the White House notion that progress on the Palestinian track will help diminish the Iranian threat. Netanyahu will also point out that most “moderate” Arab and Sunni Muslim countries quietly strongly support action against Iran.
A central goal for the Netanyahu-Obama meeting will be to establish channels of communication between U.S. and Israeli government agencies.
WND first reported last week that unlike the Bush administration, the staff of President Obama is not coordinating its policy on Iran or the greater Middle East with Israel and has not been informing the Jewish state of its plans or recent diplomatic developments in the Mideast, according to sources in Netanyahu’s office.
The silence extends to U.S. talks with the Palestinians, the sources said.
“Our intention and our hope as we go to Washington is to establish close intimate cooperative relationships on these sensitive matters,” a top Netanyahu official told WND last week.
According to other sources in the prime minister’s office, Israel has been obtaining the vast majority of its information regarding U.S. plans and advances for the Middle East from third parties, mostly European diplomats.
This is in stark contrast to Bush’s eight-year presidency, during which the White House and State Department routinely briefed Israeli counterparts on Middle East affairs to the extent that the majority of official U.S. and Israeli statements on various policy issues were heavily coordinated.
“Right now there is next to no communication coming to us from the White House,” said a source in Netanyahu’s office.
The source warned against interpreting the matter as evidencing an anti-Israel bias from the Obama administration.
“Look, there is a new administration in the U.S. and a new one here (in Israel),” the source said. “There hasn’t been so much time yet to establish channels.”
Still, the source noted the extent of the blackout on information from the U.S. was “not usual practice.”
A second source said the lack of communication between Israel and America extends to Israeli-Palestinian affairs. That source described a meeting last month between Netanyahu and another of Obama’s Middle East envoys, George Mitchell. The source said the meeting largely was a one-way street, with the prime minister sharing his intended approach to Syria and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. He said Mitchell outlined Obama’s overall strategy for the region but did not update Netanyahu on any talks with the Palestinians or specifics of Obama’s intentions.
“Other than the Mitchell meeting, basically there wasn’t much other communication at all, period,” said the second source. “And we were not informed beforehand of policy statements that were made by Obama or his administration regarding the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, including statements Obama made after meeting Jordan’s King Abdullah (last month).”
Obama trumpets ‘anti-Israel’ Arab plan
WND’s source said one thing Mitchell did convey to Netanyahu was Obama’s alleged plan to help create a Palestinian state in hopes of normalizing relations between Israel and the Arab world in line with the “Arab Peace Initiative.” The source said Mitchell relayed that Obama’s Middle East strategy would be based on the concept of the “initiative” but with security guarantees for Israel.
Following scores of denials he would trumpet the plan, Obama in January hailed the Arab initiative, which offers normalization of ties with the Jewish state in exchange for extreme Israeli concessions.
In an interview with an Arab television network – his first formal interview as president – Obama stated:
“Well, here’s what I think is important. Look at the proposal that was put forth by King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia. … I might not agree with every aspect of the proposal, but it took great courage to put forward something that is as significant as that. I think that there are ideas across the region of how we might pursue peace. I do think that it is impossible for us to think only in terms of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict and not think in terms of what’s happening with Syria or Iran or Lebanon or Afghanistan and Pakistan.”
Since then, Obama and his team have trumpeted the plan several more times, including during a meeting last month with Jordan’s Abdullah.
The Arab Initiative, originally proposed by King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia in 2002 and later adopted by the Arab League, states that Israel would receive “normal relations” with the Arab world in exchange for a full withdrawal from the entire Gaza Strip, West Bank, Golan Heights and eastern Jerusalem, which includes the Temple Mount.
The West Bank contains important Jewish biblical sites and borders central Israeli population centers, while the Golan Heights looks down on Israeli civilian zones and was twice used by Syria to mount ground invasions into the Jewish state.
The Arab plan also demands the imposition of a non-binding U.N. resolution that calls for so-called Palestinian refugees who wish to move inside Israel to be permitted to do so at the “earliest practicable date.”
Palestinians have long demanded the “right of return” for millions of “refugees,” a formula Israeli officials across the political spectrum warn is code for Israel’s destruction by flooding the Jewish state with millions of Arabs, thereby changing its demographics.
When Arab countries attacked the Jewish state after its creation in 1948, some 725,000 Arabs living within Israel’s borders fled or were expelled from the area that became Israel. Also at that time, about 820,000 Jews were expelled from Arab countries or fled following rampant persecution.
While most Jewish refugees were absorbed by Israel and other countries, the majority of Palestinian Arabs have been maintained in 59 U.N.-run camps that do not seek to settle the Arabs elsewhere. There are currently about 4 million Arabs who claim Palestinian refugee status with the U.N., including children and grandchildren of the original fleeing Arabs, Arabs living full-time in Jordan and Arabs who long ago emigrated throughout the Middle East and to the West.