May 18, 2009
The long awaited meeting took place today between President Obama and Prime Minster Netanyahu. Both American and Israeli officials stated in advance of the meeting that there would not be confrontation, and indeed, both leaders were smiling in prior to and after the meeting. The meeting, however, lasted longer than expected, and most observers believe that indicates a difference of opinion. After the meeting there was not a joint statement, rather two very different statements. Presdient Obama stated that the only solution was two states for two nations. He also called on Israel to stop the settlement activity. Netanyahu, meanwhile, promised that if the Palestinians lived up to all of their commitments, they would eventually be able to live side by side with Israel. In regards to Iran, Netanyahu spoke about his concerns. Obama stated that the US was engaged in trying to establish dialogue with Iran to try to convince them not to build an atomic weapon. Netanyahu had hoped to hear from Obama that there would be a firm deadline for talks with Iran. Obama refused to give a deadline, but in answering a question about how long he would talk he stated:
"The one thing we’re also aware of is the fact that the history, of least, of negotiation with Iran is that there is a lot of talk but not always action and follow-through. And that’s why it is important for us, I think, without having set an artificial deadline, to be mindful of the fact that we’re not going to have talks forever. We’re not going to create a situation in which talks become an excuse for inaction while Iran proceeds with developing a nuclear -- and deploying a nuclear weapon. That’s something, obviously, Israel is concerned about, but it’s also an issue of concern for the United States and for the international community as a whole".
The President stated that he was going to give Teheran until the end of the year and then reassess the situation. He stated that he saw linkage between Iran and the Palestinians and the solving the Palestinian problems will give more leverage to solving the Iranian problem.
I have watched President Obama closely for the last year and a half and daily during his Presidency. While many have said the body language was very positive after meeting Netanyahu, I disagree. I have hardly ever seen Obama so serious. He is a man who smiles easily and he was not smiling very much at their joint conference.