The Next Few Days in U.S. Israel Relations

23 May


Tomorrow, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will address both houses of the U.S. Congress in a rare joint session. This honor is not granted to many foreign heads of state, and Netanyahu is speaking to Congress at a critical juncture in Middle Eastern history. The popular uprisings in the Arab world began in Tunisia, moved west of Israel to Egypt, and are now roiling that other large player in the region, Syria, among others (one could argue that the uprisings really began in Iran in 2009, but let’s focus on the most recent uprisings).

Israel faces the prospect of no longer being the only democracy in the region when Egypt holds elections later this year.  Hopefully, Bashar Assad, the Michael Corleone of the Arab World, will step aside soon and Syria will also begin the process of holding truly democratic elections. When the Palestinian territories held elections in 2006, Fatah won control of the West Bank, and a majority of Gazan voters elected…Hamas. The recent alliance between the two parties simply adds to the momentous occurrences in the Middle East this year, paving the way for a peace agreement between Israel and a united Palestinian leadership.

And yet. President Obama’s statement last week that any peace process must include Hamas’ recognition of Israel’s right to exist received little fanfare. His admonition of Palestine’s efforts to receive recognition as a state at the U.N., thus sparing Israel global embarrassment, went similarly unnoticed.  It was the President’s suggestion that negotiations be based on borders based on the land seized in the 1967 war- with “mutually agreed land swaps”- that proved so contentious.  Never mind that this was the policy of the previous two administrations, as well as former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert.

So what is Netanyahu’s goal as he addresses Congress? I will be watching with interest.  And I have to say that I agree with the writer Jeffrey Goldberg when he wrote, “Dear Mr. Netanyahu, Please Don’t Speak to My President That Way”.  Netanyahu was quoted as saying that he “expected” the President to walk back the 1967 remarks. These are strong words coming from an ally that relies heavily on the U.S. for aid. I will be curious what tone the Israeli Prime Minister takes with Congress.  Hopefully a more respectful one.

2 Responses to “The Next Few Days in U.S. Israel Relations”

  1. Vadim May 23, 2011 at 11:59 pm #

    ‘Israel faces the prospect of being not the only democracy in the region’?? Are you sure? I would call that wishful thinking. And you say it like it’s a bad thing. I only wish you were right.

    • lebanexican May 24, 2011 at 5:22 pm #

      I certainly hope I didn’t make it seem like it’s a bad thing; being surrounded by functioning democracies should be better than being surrounded by autocracies with little freedom. Egypt is holding elections in October or November. Until then it’s a military transition to democracy. Keep your fingers crossed…,_2011

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