When Bibi met Barack

The two men have opposing worldviews: Obama believes in the land-for-peace formula, Netanyahu does not.

Well, that was excruciating, said Nahum Barnea and Shimon Shiffer in the Tel Aviv Yedioth Ahronoth. We knew the meeting between Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and President Barack Obama last week would be tense. After all, Obama had just given a major speech on the Middle East, saying he believed that a Palestinian state should be formed in the West Bank and Gaza, with Israel reverting to its “1967 borders with mutually agreed upon swaps” of territory. Netanyahu immediately rejected that formulation, saying the 1967 borders were “indefensible” and that he “expected” Obama to take back his words. So when we entered the Oval Office for the press briefing after the two leaders met, we found “sour faces.” When Obama spoke, Netanyahu “glared at him,” and while Netanyahu spoke, “Obama grabbed his chin with his right hand, as if he needed a quick crutch to help him bear everything he was about to hear.”

By acting so rudely, Netanyahu was playing to an Israeli audience, said Ben Caspit in the Tel Aviv Ma’ariv. He’s campaigning for re-election—and you have to admit, it took guts to tell off a U.S. president on a visit to the White House. Netanyahu was utterly condescending, saying that Obama didn’t understand “basic facts” of Middle East history. “It is not easy to sit with the strongest man in the world, in his house, and dump a bucket of sewage on his head.” But did he go too far? In essence, the Israeli prime minister “declared war on America.” While “many people have done this before, very few have lived to tell the tale.”

The two men obviously don’t like each other, said Herb Keinon in The Jerusalem Post. Yet their differences “can’t be reduced to a conflict of personalities.” The frosty atmosphere in the Oval Office was “not the result of a ‘bad connection’ or ‘bad blood.’” Rather, it stemmed from a fundamental difference in worldviews. Obama believes in the land-for-peace formula, “and that what it will take to solve the Israeli-Arab conflict is a painful ceding of Israeli land.” Netanyahu, on the other hand, believes, “based on past experience,” that giving up more and more Israeli land will do nothing to ensure Israel’s security or Israelis’ safety.

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Most Israelis, though, agree with Obama, said Alon Pinkas in Ma’ariv. The president “expressed what the stem of the Israeli tree thinks, not its branches on the right and on the left.” The far Right may want to keep every Jewish settlement in the West Bank and all of Jerusalem, but most of us have understood for years that peace will mean land swaps. More importantly, Obama clearly rejected the Palestinians’ right of return to their ancestors’ homes by saying that Israel would remain “a Jewish state and a homeland for the Jewish people.” Obama’s vision of a future Palestinian state, and the peace that such an arrangement can bring Israel, may be thoroughly “anti-Netanyahu,” but it is unequivocally “pro-Israel.”

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