Analysis: Leaders must build a rapport before the work begins

By Barry Rubin, May 14, 2009
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What does Israel want from PM Netanyahu’s first meeting with President Obama? There are four main themes: assess US thinking, get along, inform US policymakers of Israel’s concerns, and persuade Mr Obama on the issues.

The single most important aspect of this meeting is that it is the first between the two as their countries’ leaders. They will have to see if they understand each other, though both will make a big effort to portray the encounter as a success. Mr Netanyahu has to defuse the negative stereotype of himself as uncooperative on peace.

In addition, Israel’s leadership will have to assess Mr Obama. Does he intend to be friendly, cool, or hostile? Does he see a special relationship between the two countries?

Dealing with specific issues is less important than these points. There will be lots more meetings in the future to get work done. However, they do want to set the framework on at least two issues.

On the Israel-Palestinian peace process, Mr Netanyahu wants to make it clear that he is ready to talk with the Palestinians and implement past government commitments. But he will also stress his doubt that there is a real chance for an agreement, that he wants to focus on economic benefits for Palestinians, and that he wants assurances that the US will not engage with Hamas and Hizbollah.

Regarding Iran, Mr Netanyahu wants to stress the urgency with which Israel views Iran’s development of nuclear weapons and to receive assurances that the US will take a tough stance on the issue. Lastly, he would like to find out how long US policymakers will try engagement with Tehran before concluding that the regime is going to remain radical and aggressive.

Barry Rubin is director of the Global Research in International Affairs

Last updated: 2:26pm, November 8 2010