Posted by on July 07, 2010 in Blog

President Obama met with Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu earlier today to discuss a wide-range of issues. Their meeting marked the first time the two have met since the tragic events in May aboard the Gaza-bound aid convoy.

As expected, the two didn’t make any new news other than they met and this time, photographs were allowed. Israel’s relations with the U.S. – and much of the world – have come under considerable strain in recent weeks following the flotilla incident, which also brought the Israeli-inflicted humanitarian crises in Gaza under intense international scrutiny. The meeting between President Obama and Netanyahu was expected to focus on the “special relationship” between the United States and Israel and the need to resume negotiations in support of a two-state solution. At least, that was the public message delivered from the meeting and its surrounding White House activities, including a luncheon and a First Lady invite to her counterpart.

On substance, no major announcements were expected or made. In Mideast politics, that is sometimes a good thing – unless you look at it from another perspective. The world – including Palestinians and Israelis –continue to rely on American leadership to help produce a breakthrough in negotiations.

Ahead of today’s meeting, Arab American leaders met with a senior White House official last week to discuss steps taken after the flotilla crisis to alleviate the humanitarian crisis in Gaza, open the borders for trade and travel, and to ultimately lift the blockade. Arab American leaders expressed concern that the Israeli actions with regard to the blockade were inadequate and did not provide the very measures the President had referenced when he talked about a viable economy for Palestinians. The participants cautioned the White House against accepting incremental changes to a failed policy as a major shift. The meeting also emphasized the need to support the ongoing Israeli-Palestinian ‘proximity talks’ as a vehicle to return the two parties to real negotiations and ultimately, to lead to real progress.

References were made to “robust discussions” during the meeting today. Let’s hope they begin to produce robust change.

Click here to watch the both President Obama’s and PM Netenyahu’s post-meeting statements.


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