Khalil E. Jahshan
Arab Center Washington DC
Head of Palestine/Israel Program and Senior Fellow
Arab Center Washington DC
In an attempt to appease his critics in Washington and back in Israel, Prime Minister Netanyahu embarked on a three-day fence-mending visit to the US. Three crucial items were on his agenda: First and foremost, increase US military aid up to $50 billion for the next 10 years; second, get US political support for his government’s handling of the situation in Palestine, and; third, reconciliation with the Democrats in Congress.
On November 10, 2015, the Arab Center Washington DC (ACW) hosted a briefing for members of the Arab press to address the political implications of this trip. ACW’s Executive Director, Khalil Jahshan, and Yousef Munayyer, Middle East Analyst at the Center conducted the briefing.
Jahshan pointed out that “Netanyahu had high expectations for his meeting with President Obama, the first such encounter since the public political fallout between the two leaders over the Iran nuclear deal,” however, according to Jahshan, “Netanyahu’s attempts to placate the Obama Administration and its Democratic allies in Congress were overshadowed by several events which clearly demonstrate the continued tensions in US-Israel relations, namely: the controversy over the appointment of Ran Baratz as Israel’s head of public diplomacy; the Israeli government agency’s announcement of 2,200 new settlement houses in close proximity to Ramallah, and; the declaration of defeat by President Obama over the failed Israeli-Palestinian negotiations.”
According to Jahshan, “Netanyahu’s trip generated some verbal support for the military aid package he requested and mended some fences with the Democrats, however, the trip brought to the surface the reality of a significant loss of credibility for US policy in the Middle East and severely diminished the prospects for an Obama Middle East peace legacy.” According to Jahshan, Obama finally admitted that his peace process is dead, and therefore, US endorsement of “Netanyahu’s strategy of ‘anti-solutionism’…and blaming the Palestinian victims of Israeli occupation for increased violence is not a policy befitting a superpower that claims leadership of the free world.”
In his remarks, Munayyer focused on the impression created by Netanyahu over the past several months concerning the threat posed to Israel’s security by Iran. “The purpose of keeping the attention of the US Administration on this issue,” according to Munayyer, “was to divert its attention from the occupation and the ‘1 ½ state solution’, not the two-state solution, considering the actual state of Palestine as a viable entity. Netanyahu, he explained, created a perception of insecurity that would serve to support his proposed funding increase request as he prepared for his discussions with Obama on the 10-year US military aid package for Israel.
“Palestine is no longer the main cause of destabilization in the region and…the drivers of that are not necessarily directly connected to Palestine,” stated Munayyer. He further stressed “Palestine continues to fall down the priority list of US interested making it increasingly less likely that US presidents will seek, in any way, to challenge Israeli prime ministers on what they are doing on the ground in the Occupied Territories.” Munayyer concluded that the Palestinian leadership view Obama as “the last great hope” for a Palestinian State, however, as the liberal landscape continues to change, in the long-term, Israelis are going to have to work a lot harder in order to maintain a relationship with the future leadership of that constituency.