Randa Takieddine
Dar Al-Hayat (Opinion)
May 20, 2009 - 12:00am

The talks between US President Barack Obama and his guest, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, clearly show the deep difference in their stances on the Palestinians and Iran; this difference will continue to dominate the relationship between the White House and the current Israeli government.

Obviously, Obama wishes to arrive at a solution to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. He has said this since appointing the special Middle East envoy, George Mitchell, who mediated a solution to the conflict in Northern Ireland. A few days ago, Obama was clear when he requested Netanyahu to accept a Palestinian state and halt settlements.

As usual, Netanyahu cast the responsibility on the Palestinians and did not say the word “state;” he also tried to assign priority to the Iranian threat to Arab countries and the world.

While Obama was requesting a halt to settlement activity, the Israeli government was launching tenders to build new settlements in the West Bank. Led by Netanyahu and Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman, Israel does not want peace, or a Palestinian state on its borders. Moreover, the Israeli government does not accept Israeli Arabs, based on what its racist foreign minister has repeatedly said.

How can Obama pressure his great ally Israel to agree to a Palestinian state and end settlements, and not engage in a military adventure against Iran? This is the question.

Obama’s response to what Netanyahu said about Iran was logical. First, the White House will wait until after the Iranian elections to begin direct dialogue with Tehran; the administration will wait until the end of the year to determine whether or not the Iranian authorities are responding to this dialogue. Obama said clearly that the other method used against Iran did not succeed, and that the US would try through diplomacy, but not forever. At the end of the year, America will evaluate what has been achieved and draw up a new policy afterward, based on that.

Obama also believes that using the other option with Iran has strengthened Hezbollah and Hamas, and that he wants now to test if the American dialogue will remove these two cards from Iran’s hand.

Obama made it clear to Netanyahu that in return, Israel should move ahead on the Palestinian front.

Certainly, Netanyahu will resort to political maneuvers with the Palestinians or Hezbollah and Hamas, and perhaps Syria, to then find a golden opportunity to say to Obama that the problems are coming from the Arabs, and not him.

It is likely that Netanyahu, who differs with the US president over the establishment of a Palestinian state, will draw Hezbollah or Hamas into the trap of another war, to dispel the chance of a peaceful solution. The situation in Lebanon is politically fragile and it is easy to trap Hezbollah into a new war. Likewise, the conditions in Gaza are very bad and Israel, which continues to shut down the area and hold it hostage, can generate more tragedies, to spur a reaction by Hamas. All of this is now possible, since Netanyahu does not want peace, a halt to settlements, or a Palestinian state.

The Iranian threat, meanwhile, is real in the region, but an Israeli war against Iran will be a disaster. Therefore, the US policy toward Iran on dialogue could be better, but its results are not guaranteed. The six-nation dialogue with Iran on the nuclear issue has been a failure.

It was no coincidence that French President Nicholas Sarkozy is heading to Abu Dhabi on Monday, to open a French nuclear land, air and sea base. This base is the first of its kind, in terms of participation with an important Gulf partner of France, to secure protection for it from any threats. Iran’s policy in the Gulf and the Middle East, from Lebanon to Palestine and Egypt, is built on intervention and de-stabilization.

The question now being posed is the following: Can the US-Iranian dialogue dispel the Iranian desire to dominate the region? This is doubtful. For Iran, since the era of the Shah, has always wanted to dominate the region and the world. Persian expansionism continues to exist in the mindset of the Iranian regime.

However, what Israel wants, namely a military strike against Iran, is not the solution, because it could ignite the entire region. For how long will Obama wait, not only for the new Iranian policy, but also Israel’s policy and its continuing rejection of what it is being asked to do?


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