While in Washington, DC, for the America/Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) meeting in early March, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has requested a meeting with President Barack Obama. Mr. Obama checkmated the prime minister by announcing the intention to travel to Israel on March 20 for his first visit as President of the United States.
The reason this is a tactical chess move by Mr. Obama is that the prime minister is still in the process of putting together his own government in the Knesset. In order to achieve this, Mr. Netanyahu must have the support of the center-left parties. The president’s move sends a troublesome signal to those on the far left and weakens the prime minister’s ability to draw them into a workable coalition.
The president’s trip to Israel undermines Netanyahu’s ability to lobby against Mr. Obama’s Middle East policies with AIPAC, the largest Jewish lobby in the US, with the House of Representatives, and through the media. Rather, the president will have the inside track on lobbying.
During his visit to Israel, the president will meet with opposition leaders, potential Left-leaning coalition members, and speak to the Knesset. His message will be one of disapproval of Prime Minister Netanyahu’s political position.
Obama will also meet with Jordanian and Palestinian Authority leaders. It could be payback time for Mr. Netanyahu, who in 2011 was snubbed by the president and was invited to address the House of Representatives to make his case for support of the Jewish state. He was welcomed with open arms and repeated applause.
Mr. Obama will present what he considers to be a new Middle East peace initiative which calls for the division of Jerusalem with East Jerusalem as the capital of a Palestinian State. This will include most of Judea and Samaria. It is highly likely that the president will meet with the Palestinians either in Jericho or Bethlehem. He is dispatching newly-minted Secretary of State John Kerry to do the advance preparation. Kerry will meet in Ramallah with Palestinian leaders to settle details for the president’s visit.
Pressure will be exerted on the Israeli government to halt settlement construction, including that in East Jerusalem. A call for the release of Palestinian prisoners will also be part of the president’s agenda. Each of these moves could undermine the future of Prime Minister Netanyahu’s new government.
When the prime minister travels to Washington, the spotlight is almost always on him, and not on Barack Obama. The reverse will be true when the president visits Jerusalem. The very last thing Mr. Obama desires is for the prime minister to put together a strong, stable coalition. There is little question of his frigid feelings toward Mr. Netanyahu.
Sixty-one coalition partners of the 120 in the Knesset are needed to hold Netanyahu’s government together. The newly-elected members, largely center of left, are aware that Mr. Obama will be in power for the next four years. The prime minister is vulnerable due to doubts that his government will survive for two years. Like a circling predator, the president smells blood in the water; therefore he will have his pack circling in an effort to lobby and empower the opposition to dump Prime Minister Netanyahu overboard in the shark-infested waters.
Having known Benjamin Netanyahu for thirty-four years, and having recommended him to Prime Minister Menachem Begin for his first political appointment, I have seen him overcome numerous storms. This one, however, appears to be the perfect storm that will require help from above.
Dr. Mike Evans is a #1 New York Times bestselling author. His latest novel, The Locket, is the riveting story of a young Jewish girl who realizes that her neighbor, Adolf Eichmann, grew up to be the architect of the “final solution.” It documents her struggle to survive the Holocaust and bring Eichmann to justice. For information, visit www.Timeworthybooks.com.