Friday, August 7, 2020 -
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The end of the affair?

Despite concerns that the two world leaders would clash during their meet earlier this week in Washington, a collision did not come to pass. Yet.

Obama and Netanyahu seemed to get along quite well. Both deliberate, both thoughtful, both controlled. But what of the substance?

Israel-Palestine: Obama’s continuing to espouse the two-state solution, even though many on the ground doubt its viability, especially considering the fractured state of the Palestinians. Bibi is still not on board for a two-state solution, although just after disembarking in Ben Gurion, he did announce that he is ready to resume talks with the Palestinian Authority and – this is the big one – with Syria. But with Bibi sticking to his idea of limited self government for Palestinians, it’s doubtful what chance of success talks with the PA will have.

Settlements: Bibi did not agree to a halt in settlements, admitting that such a freeze would be a politically difficult sell back home. This is obviously a massive obstacle for the US. Update: The Israeli Army yesterday dismantled an illegal settlement outpost; the analysis: Bibi’s throwing a bone to Obama (New York Times)

Iran: On how long the US would pursue talks with Iran, Bibi did get a timetable out of Obama: by the end of this year. Obama did express concern over Iran’s nuclear ambitions and its continued enriching of uranium.

Scorecard: While it’s not yet the end of the affair, fundamental divergence of views between Obama and Netanyahu doesn’t bode well for the future of the US-Israel relationship. The most significant step was Bibi’s decision to re-open negotiations with Syria. We’ll have to wait and see how much political clout that will earn Israel in the halls of Washington.

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