Tensions Threaten To Complicate Obama’s Middle East Listening Tour

President's Trip Comes Amid Political and Social Unrest

Trading Places: Benjamin Netanyahu’s own political situation may change the nature of the American president’s upcoming trip.
Getty Images
Trading Places: Benjamin Netanyahu’s own political situation may change the nature of the American president’s upcoming trip.

By Nathan Guttman and Nathan Jeffay

Published March 01, 2013, issue of March 08, 2013.
  • Print
  • Share Share
  • Single Page

(page 3 of 3)

Israelis would like to see Obama focus as much attention as possible on Iran and deal with the Palestinian issue in as general terms as possible.

“I think the Obama visit to Israel has one major goal or objective: that the president of the U.S. will talk as directly as he can to the Israeli public and mainly on Iran,” said Yoram Meital, chair of the Chaim Herzog Center for Middle East Studies and Diplomacy at Ben-Gurion University. He added that the idea is to undermine Netanyahu and any unilateral plans he may have for an Iran strike. Obama wants the Israeli public to put its faith in the United States on this issue, Meital said.

Following the West Bank unrest, Obama may focus on Israel-Palestinian peace a little more, “but it’s not the aim of the visit,” Meital said.

The veteran Israeli peace activist Gershon Baskin, founder of the Israel/Palestine Center for Research and Information think tank, disagrees. “I don’t think it’s going to be about Iran,” he said. “I think the main message he’s coming to give is, ‘Forget about Iran — Iran is ours.’”

Obama will essentially be freeing up Israel from the Iran issue to seek peace with the Palestinians, Baskin predicted. And in his view, an escalation could undermine this, causing him to start “micromanaging the Israeli-Palestinian situation” instead of talking about big peace plans — or maybe to cancel his trip altogether.

The Israeli Prime Minister’s Office declined to comment on whether it believes that the West Bank unrest will have an impact on Obama’s trip, beyond directing the Forward to a statement from the prime minister’s office showing that Israeli-Palestinian peace featured prominently on the agenda when it was released, a week before the unrest began. Netanyahu “noted that the main issues of the visit will be focused on the diplomatic-security sphere — the Iranian nuclear issue, the situation in Syria and efforts to resume the negotiations with the Palestinians.”

Netanyahu’s own political situation could add another complicating factor to the president’s trip to the region.

With the deadline for forming a new government falling only days before Obama’s arrival, Netanyahu has yet to establish a new coalition. Negotiations for a coalition have reached a dead end following the unexpected insistence by Yair Lapid’s Yesh Atid party on changing Israeli rules regarding military service for ultra-Orthodox yeshiva students. Lapid has formed a negotiating alliance with the right-wing Jewish Home party to fortify his position.

Analysts are unanimous in agreeing that Netanyahu will eventually succeed in forming a new government. But the unclear situation is making planning for Obama’s visit all the more complicated.

“There are just so many unknowns,” Makovsky said. He noted that America’s stance toward a Netanyahu government that would include a broad centrist component would be different from one toward a narrow government in which the right wing is dominant.

Nathan Guttman reported from Washington. Contact him at guttman@forward.com or on Twitter @nathanguttman

Nathan Jeffay reported from Jerusalem. Contact him at jeffay@forward.com


The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.





Find us on Facebook!
  • The eggplant is beloved in Israel. So why do Americans keep giving it a bad rap? With this new recipe, Vered Guttman sets out to defend the honor of her favorite vegetable.
  • “KlezKamp has always been a crazy quilt of gay and straight, religious and nonreligious, Jewish and gentile.” Why is the klezmer festival shutting down now?
  • “You can plagiarize the Bible, can’t you?” Jill Sobule says when asked how she went about writing the lyrics for a new 'Yentl' adaptation. “A couple of the songs I completely stole." Share this with the theater-lovers in your life!
  • Will Americans who served in the Israeli army during the Gaza operation face war crimes charges when they get back home?
  • Talk about a fashion faux pas. What was Zara thinking with the concentration camp look?
  • “The Black community was resistant to the Jewish community coming into the neighborhood — at first.” Watch this video about how a group of gardeners is rebuilding trust between African-Americans and Jews in Detroit.
  • "I am a Jewish woman married to a non-Jewish man who was raised Catholic, but now considers himself a “common-law Jew.” We are raising our two young children as Jews. My husband's parents are still semi-practicing Catholics. When we go over to either of their homes, they bow their heads, often hold hands, and say grace before meals. This is an especially awkward time for me, as I'm uncomfortable participating in a non-Jewish religious ritual, but don't want his family to think I'm ungrateful. It's becoming especially vexing to me now that my oldest son is 7. What's the best way to handle this situation?" http://jd.fo/b4ucX What would you do?
  • Maybe he was trying to give her a "schtickle of fluoride"...
  • It's all fun, fun, fun, until her dad takes the T-Bird away for Shabbos.
  • "Like many Jewish people around the world, I observed Shabbat this weekend. I didn’t light candles or recite Hebrew prayers; I didn’t eat challah or matzoh ball soup or brisket. I spent my Shabbat marching for justice for Eric Garner of Staten Island, Michael Brown of Ferguson, and all victims of police brutality."
  • Happy #NationalDogDay! To celebrate, here's a little something from our archives:
  • A Jewish couple was attacked on Monday night in New York City's Upper East Side. According to police, the attackers flew Palestinian flags.
  • "If the only thing viewers knew about the Jews was what they saw on The Simpsons they — and we — would be well served." What's your favorite Simpsons' moment?
  • "One uncle of mine said, 'I came to America after World War II and I hitchhiked.' And Robin said, 'I waited until there was a 747 and a kosher meal.'" Watch Billy Crystal's moving tribute to Robin Williams at last night's #Emmys:
  • "Americans are much more focused on the long term and on the end goal which is ending the violence, and peace. It’s a matter of zooming out rather than debating the day to day.”
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.