Abdullah Iskandar
Dar Al-Hayat (Opinion)
April 12, 2010 - 12:00am

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has directed yet another slap in the face at the administration of President Barack Obama. No matter how much the White House attempts to minimize the Israeli radical right-wing leader’s failure to attend the nuclear summit to which he was invited, and to pretext that Israeli representation at this summit will not be affected, and no matter how much Netanyahu connects his abstention to the possibility of the issue of Israel’s nuclear arsenal being addressed, his not heading to Washington remains a slap in the face for Obama, who had expected Netanyahu to provide him with answers to US demands of activating negotiations for peace with the Palestinians.

It is well known that this summit, which Washington will be hosting over two days at the beginning of next week, will not be addressing limiting the proliferation of nuclear weapons of countries, which automatically excludes Israel’s nuclear weapons, as well as the issue of the proliferation of such weapons in any other country, including Iran. The main issue on this summit’s agenda is discussing how to prevent such weapons from reaching terrorist movements, an issue which directly concerns Israel, which claims to fear the possibility of Iran providing these kinds of weapons to Arab movements allied with it, such as Hezbollah and Hamas. This does not negate the fact that nuclear issues concerning countries, particularly Iran and North Korea, will be present in the bilateral talks which Obama will engage in with his guests.

This means that Netanyahu justifying his not going to Washington with the fear of Egypt or Turkey arousing the issue of Israel’s nuclear weapons does not stand in any way or form. Had such fears been real, Israel should have boycotted this summit, not sent its Deputy Prime Minister to Washington.

On the other hand, there is a US-Israeli strategic agreement based on the formula of the United States refraining from addressing the issue of Israel’s nuclear weapons in exchange for Israel refraining from risking nuclear explosions in the region. Both parties scrupulously respect this agreement, which negates any possibility of Washington allowing the issue of Israel’s nuclear weapons in general to be put forward, and particularly at a high-level meeting not intended to address this issue in the first place.

Thus the nuclear justification for Netanyahu not heading to Washington does not stand, in spite of Israel’s announcement and of US “belief”. The real reason behind the Israeli Prime Minister declining the US President’s invitation lies elsewhere and regards a different matter, that of US efforts to resume the negotiations with the Palestinians.

It is well known that Obama put forth a set of demands to Netanyahu when he met him a few weeks ago in Washington, and given him a deadline to respond. The purpose of these demands is to facilitate indirect negotiations between the Palestinians and the Israelis. But the Israeli Prime Minister announced immediately upon returning from the US capital his rejection of these demands. He must hence directly inform Obama of such a rejection, which has effectively paralyzed the task of US Envoy George Mitchell. Faced with such rejection, the US Administration has begun to look for alternatives, including that of putting forth a new plan which it would impose on both the Israeli and Palestinian sides, a step which Israel has rejected in advance. In such a case, there is no longer for the White House anything justifying a new meeting with Netanyahu. Indeed, the latter is not willing to meet US conditions, but coming to Washington without meeting the President would seem tantamount to failure for him, in the framework of the strategic relationship between the two countries. He has not met the condition of such a meeting and refuses to go to Washington without meeting the President, therefore declining the invitation under the pretext of Israel’s nuclear weapons.

Thus, Netanyahu, by declining the US’s invitation, is sending a message to the White House signifying that Israel under his government will not submit to any US pressure to stimulate the peace process, and will not allow any US plan in that respect to pass. Thus the new slap in the face for the US Administration, especially by showing its “belief” of the nuclear justification.


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