Another meaningless Middle East photo op - By Stephen Walt
from Stephen M. Walt by Stephen M. Walt
I suspect some readers are expecting me to comment on today's meeting between President Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, but I actually don't have that much to say about it. I think it's a largely meaningless public relations exercise, a kiss-and-make-up session designed to show that U.S-Israeli relations are still just fine and intended to keep "pro-Israel" dollars flowing into the Democratic Party's coffers in the run-up to the November mid-terms. I don't expect Bibi to make any serious concessions today and I doubt Barack will put any serious pressure on him. Instead, look for lots of smiles and handshakes, accompanied by frothy statements about "shared values" and "unbreakable commitments." Then you can switch channels, turn the page, or head for a different website.
There is only one big question here: is there going to be a genuine two-state solution or not? In other words, is Israel going to withdraw from most of the lands it occupied in 1967, end the siege of Gaza, and permit the Palestinians to establish an independent state of their own on those lands, including a capital in East Jerusalem? If so, then the rest of the Arab world will recognize it, its stigma as an occupying power will end, and U.S. relations with the Arab and Islamic world will improve significantly. It won't solve all our problems, of course, but it would be a major step forward.
If a two-state solution fails, however, then Israel will become a full-fledged apartheid state and will increasingly be seen as one. It will face growing international censure, liberal Israelis will be more inclined to emigrate, and the United States will continue to pay a significant price for the "special relationship."
President Obama understood all this when he took the oath of office, but he's been in full retreat mode ever since his Cairo speech in June 2009. Unless today's meeting yields some unexpected results, it's mostly a waste of time. And time is running out.