Barack to Bibi: “Time is running out”

Obama and Net March 2013 in Jerby James M. Wall

When President Obama consented to an interview with Bloomberg columnist Jeffrey Goldberg,  the President sent an ultimatum to israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu:
“Time is running out”.
Obama does not choose a reporter for an individual interview without a clear purpose.
In this case, his purpose could have been to use Goldberg as a journalist-messenger, trusted by Israel, but also a columnist for an American media outlet.
In his younger years, Goldberg served in the Israeli army as a prison guard.  He even produced a book out of the experience, Prisoners: A Story of Friendship and Terror.
The interview with Goldberg is the template President Obama keeps in front of his Israeli visitor, both in Washington and into the future.
Prime Minister Netanyahu came to Washington Sunday night. He met with President Obama Monday and on Tuesday he will address the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) Policy Conference,
The AIPAC conference customarily functions as a pep really for AIPAC funders and supporters. At this annual event, through speeches and small group meetings, attendees receive legislative marching orders, essentially a list of legislation AIPAC wants passed in the American Congress.
One key demand that was expected to be high on this year’s AIPAC list was pulled, as AIPAC yielded to intense pressure from the White House. The word from the Oval Office to AIPAC was that Congress must not pass tougher sanctions against Iran. To do so would doom U.S. efforts to reach a nuclear agreement with Iran.
It is of no small significance that neither President Obama nor Vice President Joe Biden, will attend the AIPAC Policy Conference. The Conference is a political rally;  Obama and Biden are focused on diplomacy.
The executive branch was represented at the Conference by U.S. Secretary of the Treasury Jack Lew, an Orthodox Jew, who spoke on Sunday. He reiterated the Obama administration’s opposition “to new Iran sanctions during the interim nuclear deal”.
In the Obama-Netanyahu meeting Monday, details of which will emerge over time, Netanyahu repeated his usual talking points, insisting “Israel has been doing its part” to forge peace, but that it’s been met with “incessant Palestinian incitement.”
Obama thanked Netanyahu for participating in what he called “very lengthy and painstaking negotiations” with Kerry over a framework for peace talks.
Netanyahu had also read and no doubt studied carefully, Obama’s pre-meeting interview with Goldberg. In that interview, which Bloomberg published Sunday night (March 2) Obama told Goldberg that the window for peace talks is closing.
He also said he believes “that ultimately it is still possible” to create a Jewish state of Israel and a state of Palestine”.

Obama will host Palestinian Authority President Abbas at the White House on March 17. He will no doubt engage in the same tough talk with Abbas.

in the Bloomberg interview, Goldberg reported that President Barack Obama planned to tell Netanyahu “that his country could face a bleak future — one of international isolation and demographic disaster — if he refuses to endorse a U.S.-drafted framework agreement for peace with the Palestinians”.

Obama also said in the interview that he will warn Netanyahu that “time is running out for Israel as a Jewish-majority democracy”.

In the hour-long Oval Office interview, which was conducted Thursday [February 27]  Obama used a famous saying from the first century Jewish sage Rabbi Hillel, one of the most influential scholars in Jewish history, that he planned to tell Netanyahu, “If not now, when? And if not you, Mr. Prime Minister, then who”?

The original Hillel quote, according to the Jewish Virtual Library is:

“If I am not for myself, then who will be for me? And if I am only for myself, then what am I? And if not now, when?”

The Jerusalem newspaper Ha’aretz noted an important reference to Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas in the interview. Goldberg writes that Obama described Abbas as “the most moderate leader Israel would encounter in the foreseeable future”.

According to Goldberg, Obama gave him the impression that Netanyahu was the one who had to be flexible in order to advance the peace talks.

The President also said that he intends to remind Netanyahu:

“There comes a point where you can’t manage this anymore, and then you start having to make very difficult choices. Do you resign yourself to what amounts to a permanent occupation of the West Bank? Is that the character of Israel as a state for a long period of time?

Do you perpetuate, over the course of a decade or two decades, more and more restrictive policies in terms of Palestinian movement? Do you place restrictions on Arab Israelis in ways that run counter to Israel’s traditions?”

Amnesty International has released its report, entitled, appropriately enough, “Trigger-happy”, on the conduct of Israeli forces that underscores the growing international awareness of Israel’s treatment of the Palestinian population it holds in its tight military-grip.

Amnesty’s web site begins its story on the latest investigation:

Israeli forces have displayed a callous disregard for human life by killing dozens of Palestinian civilians, including children, in the occupied West Bank over the past three years with near total impunity, said Amnesty International in a report published today.

The report, Trigger-happy: Israel’s use of excessive force in the West Bank, describes mounting bloodshed and human rights abuses in the Occupied Palestinian Territories (OPT) as a result of the Israeli forces’ use of unnecessary, arbitrary and brutal force against Palestinians since January 2011.

In all cases examined by Amnesty International, Palestinians killed by Israeli soldiers did not appear to be posing a direct and immediate threat to life. In some, there is evidence that they were victims of willful killings, which would amount to war crimes.

“The report presents a body of evidence that shows a harrowing pattern of unlawful killings and unwarranted injuries of Palestinian civilians by Israeli forces in the West Bank,” said Philip Luther, Middle East and North Africa Director at Amnesty International.

“Trigger-happy” and the Goldberg-Obama interview, were both available to Netanyahu before he met Monday with Obama. The Prime Minister had a long plane ride from Tel Aviv to Washington Sunday.

After arriving in Washington Sunday night Netanyahu was scheduled to meet with Secretary Kerry Monday morning before meeting with the president. On Tuesday morning Netanyahu was expected to address AIPAC, no doubt to thunderous applause.

The advance word from AIPAC indicated that as many as 400 members of Congress would be among the 14,000 in attendance.

Later Tuesday, the Prime Minister will fly to Los Angeles. He will have received his Obama ultimatum.

On the flight he will have more time to reflect on his future dealings with the Palestinian people, his international reputation, and on how he intends to lead Israel into the future.

The picture above of Obama and Netanyahu was taken in Israel, March, 2013, by Marc Israel, Sellem Pool Getty Images.

About wallwritings

James M. Wall is currently a Contributing Editor of The Christian Century magazine, based in Chicago, Illinois. From 1972 through 1999, he was editor and publisher of the Christian Century magazine. Jim launched this new personal blog April 24, 2008. If you would like to receive Wall Writings alerts when new postings are added to this site, send a note, saying, Please Add Me, to jameswall8@gmail.com Biography: Journalism was Jim's undergraduate college major at Emory University, Atlanta, Georgia. He has earned two MA degrees, one from Emory, and one from the University of Chicago, both in religion. He is an ordained United Methodist clergy person. He served for two years in the US Air Force, and three additional years in the USAF reserve. While serving on active duty with the Alaskan Command, he reached the rank of first lieutenant. He has worked as a sports writer for both the Atlanta Journal and Constitution, was editor of the United Methodist magazine, Christian Advocate for ten years, and editor and publisher of the Christian Century magazine for 27 years.
This entry was posted in John Kerry, Middle East, Middle East Politics, Netanyahu, Obama. Bookmark the permalink.

6 Responses to Barack to Bibi: “Time is running out”

  1. Pingback: My Catbird Seat – Barack to Bibi: “Time is running out”

  2. Fred says:

    The so called “framework” is a givaway to Israel, they get to keep all of their illegal settlements most of East Jerusalem and the Jordan Valley. No Palestinian in his right mind could accept it. Still the Israelis don’t want it, and why should they? They have all of Palestine now, an apartheid system where they take whatever they want and have Jewish Supremacy Laws which give them enormous privileges that non Jews can never have. They have the US Congress in their pocket, and no danger of sanctions due to a US veto.

    The only solution for the oppressed Plaestinains is continue a long struggle for equal rights in Israel /Palestine, and they will have to give even more of their lives for equal rights. The Israelis don’t tolerate non violent protest. they shoot them or lock them up indefinitely without charges or trial. The US is Israel’s enabler.

  3. Jack Graham says:

    If the United States had conditioned American military, diplomatic, and financial assistance to Israel on her acquiescence to United Nations Security Council Resolutions 224 and 338, there would have been no 9/11, nor would time be running out on Israel today, because peace between Israel and her Arab neighbors would have been established long ago. Lessons? God wants justice, not sacrifice, as it says in the first chapter of Isaiah. The Bible is right, only Pastor Hagee does not understand it. And George Washington was right on the foreign policy recommendations in his Farewell Address. Is it really that simple? Yes! — John Remington Graham of the Minnesota Bar (#3664X)

  4. John Kleinheksel says:

    Jim, thanks again.
    We now know what happened between Bibi and our President. No concessions from the Israeli side. No change in the Israeli stance viz a viz the Palestinians. The lack of peace is all because of Palestinian intransigence and refusal to acknowledge the “Jewish State” (thus conflating religious and nationalistic identity).
    Unfortunately, the US (Congress and the White House) can forestall any real progress toward human rights/ equality for the native peoples, but the Europeans will continue to chip away through BDS, until it really hurts.
    Impunity. No strings attached to our support. No teeth in our relationship. Looks more and more like a charade. Everything is slanted toward the Israeli position. Cajoling doesn’t work because we don’t want it to work. It’s all half-hearted. We talk about “justice” for the Palestinians but have no intention of helping to bring it about.
    That sounds harsh. I wish it were not true. Our behavior tells the tale. JRK for Friends of Palestinians and Israelis (FPI)

  5. Carol Tuck says:

    Last June I went on one of Sabeel’s alternative tours. During that trip, and during three others, I had the privilege of meeting both Jewish Israelis and Palestinians in the West Bank as well as in Israel. Some of the Jewish israelis I met were orthodox and would identify themselves as very Zionist. Other Jewish Israelis I met identify themselves as peace activists, people who see the need to stop the occupation. Some Palestinians were still so angry that they cannot imagine peace. On the other hand, many Palestinians I met want peace with their Jewish neighbors, but not without justice. Most of the people I met just want to live a normal, peaceful life. They are tired of the struggle. As I read this article, I found myself wondering if Netanyahu and Abbas were to go on one of these alternative tours, would they understand better what needs to be done. I believe this is especially true of Netanyahu. Sometimes national leaders never meet anyone who is not also a national leader. They don’t meet regular folks. In other words, I find myself wondering if I have met and talked to more Palestinians than Netanyahu has. I rather imagine he has not stayed in the home of a Palestinian as I did. Together, Jews and Palestinians could make Palestine a powerhouse of innovation. They could teach the rest of the Middle East how democracy can work. Oh, how to release the pent-up energy for good that is being used up by everyone just trying to survive! I have great hope for Israel/Palestine, but Obama is correct to say that time is running out. Who knows, perhaps Netanyahu will be like Nixon going to China. The least likely one to make peace, may indeed be the one to get it done.

  6. AWAD PAUL SIFRI says:

    Israel’s Netanyahu goes through the motions of meeting with President Obama and secretary of State Kerry. He knows Congress and the extremists Christian Right and Zionist Americans are set deep in his back pocket.
    Kerry takes excellent notes and puts in 150% efforts NOT to have a balanced proposal, but rather how to persuade President Abbas to agree to Netanyahu’s dictates.
    This is not an exaggeration. Israel wants to maintain its occupation, its apartheid structure, keep all of East Jerusalem, the Jordan Valley, and the West Bank settlements. And Israel will not allow Palestinian refugees to return to their own homes, lands, and farms. And to add insult to injury, Israel wants the Palestinians and Arabs to recognize it as, “a Jewish state” that totally denies the “Palestinian Narrative”, and to cheerfully open its vast Arab markets to Israel.

    No Palestinian can, or should, accept such an outright robbery of gigantic proportions. If dictated upon them, it will be the reason for a future World War III

    So, what can Palestinians do? Here are some thoughts:

    For starters, they can reject signing any such criminal treaty.
    Get recognition, as a state, at the UN
    Obtain financial assistance from the Gulf states.
    Take Israel to the World Court big time: Occupation, apartheid, ethnic cleansing, genocide, refusal to allow refugees to return, settlements, annexation, apartheid wall, etc
    Demand that the US and Russia be the first to take back their citizens who are living illegally in West Bank settlements.
    Call on the UN for vigorous BDS campaign
    Demand that the UN apply sanctions on Israel for possessing the only nuclear arsenal in the region, and demand that Israel sign the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.
    Prepare and train Palestinians and all their supporters for a very long struggle.

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