Bibi makes his US debut

By Nathan Guttman, May 14, 2009
Follow The JC on Twitter
Netanyahu and Obama first met in Jerusalem in July 2008 during the US presidential campaign. Netanyahu was opposition leader

Netanyahu and Obama first met in Jerusalem in July 2008 during the US presidential campaign. Netanyahu was opposition leader

President Barack Obama will hold his first meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu next week as part of a round of discussions with Middle East leaders which is expected to lead to a new American policy on the Israeli-Arab conflict.

Differences between Jerusalem and Washington have recently emerged both on the future of the peace process and on the Iranian nuclear threat.

The Obama administration has made clear that Mr Netanyahu’s idea of replacing a two-state solution with any other kind of Palestinian self-rule would not be acceptable and has repeated the need for a settlement freeze. Mr Netanyahu is expected to suggest supplementing talks on a political solution with talks dealing with security arrangements and building the Palestinian economy.

Mr Netanyahu, said sources, will stress his willingness to go further than previous leaders in enabling free movement for Palestinians in the West Bank and facilitating economic growth.

On Iran, Israel has reluctantly accepted Mr Obama’s call for diplomatic engagement with Iran, but expects the dialogue with Tehran to be limited in time.

A spokesman for the National Security Agency in Washington flatly turned down this demand, stating that setting timetables in advance “is not appropriate”.

Still, despite the apparent differences, it seems likely that the two leaders will do their best to avoid confrontation, and might choose to deal with the thorny issues at a later time.

Last updated: 10:28am, May 14 2009