Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s visit with U.S. President Barack Obama is only hours away, and already numerous commentaries are trying to predict what the two men will talk about when they meet today in the White House. Bibi Netanyahu’s wife, Sarah, will also have the opportunity to chat with Michelle Obama, who herself is an outspoken individual who even the President is aware of. Netanyahu has a lot to talk to Obama about, especially in regards to Israel’s future relations with a likely State of Palestine; and how to deal with the possibility of a nuclear Iran.
This will be Netanyahu’s first visit with Obama as prime minister, although he did meet Obama briefly last summer in Israel when Obama was campaigning for the U.S. presidency. We all remember how that went when Obama gave a speech in the beleaguered town of Sderot; while the town’s mayor, Eli Moyal, was pushed to the background. Sderot had been under intense bombardment by Palestinian launched Kassam rockets, and Obama went there to show his support; which really turned into a photo-op for the then U.S. Senator.
Bibi will find that his American host has his own ideas as to how things should be handled in the Middle East, and what Israel should expect from her American ally, now that a new administration is running things in Washington. For one thing, American will not be so keen on accepting everything that Netanyahu is in favor of; especially in regards to the future of the West Bank, where the proposed State of Palestine will be situated (the future of Gaze is still to be worked out). The Palestinians want all the things that they would be entitled to as a sovereign nation, including their own military forces. Netanyahu is not at all in favor of this and will try to convince Obama to be in favor of neutrality for any future Palestinian state, similar to countries like Austria and Switzerland. Other issues like the “law of return” for Palestinians to Israel is also a sensitive issue; and differences on this topic between the U.S. and Israel are already well known.
Finally, the Iranian issue with certainly be talked about, and it’s certain that Obama will caution Bibi against doing anything foolish like launching an air attack against Iran’s nuclear installations without U.S. knowledge and approval.
Judging from Bibi’s last visit to Washington as prime minister, during the Wye Plantation peace negotiations with then P.A. Chairman Yassir Arafat in October, 1998, it might be wise for Sarah Netanyahu to maintain a low profile, as she definitely didn’t contribute to that visit in a positive manner. Bibi will have enough trouble concentrating on his own PR image, rather than trying to keep Sarah on a short leash.
Or, just turn her loose in an upscale DC mall with some credit cards while he “shops” for other stuff at the White House.