Premier Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel met with U.S. President Barack Obama on Monday--November 9-- at the White House. The meeting was positive with no signs of the testiness or tension sometimes evident when the two leaders meet.
Obama promised Netanyahu large increases in military aid and Obama defended and even praised Israeli use of "self-defense" in the ongoing conflict and crackdown on Palestinians. Netanyahu praised the meeting as one of the best he had ever had with Obama. No doubt the US military-industrial complex saw the meeting in a positive light as well. Netanyahu said:Much of the meeting dealt with creating a new military aid package for Israel. The existing 10-year deal agreed to under the administration of George W. Bush is set to expire. It was worth a total of $30 billion. Netanyahu is hoping to receive a much more generous aid amount from Obama. Obama has made it clear that there is no question that the aid package would be renewed. Obama said:Officials from the two countries have apparently already broad agreement on what weapons Israel will be able to obtain under a memorandum of understanding. Israel is said to be asking that yearly military aid be increased under the package from the present $3 billion a year to about $4.5 billion, a 50 percent increase over the last package under Bush. Even the present agreement gives Israel more than half of total U.S. military aid expenditures used to finance foreign allies in 2016. The Israel aid also allows Israel to use up to a quarter of the funds provided to purchase arms from its own manufacturers. A recent congressional report estimates the total U.S. military assistance to Israel since it was founded at $124.3 billion. In spite of the positive spin on the talks, there was no change in Israel's stance on the Iran nuclear deal. Netanyahu still strenuously opposes the deal and the U.S. support for it. The U.S. is expected to provide several billion dollars extra in military aid as a reparations deal in compensation for the US supporting the Iran nuclear deal. As the appended video shows, some estimates are that Israel wants $50 billion over the ten year aid package period.The Obama administration's pressure for peace talks to resolve the Israel Palestinian conflicts appears to have evaporated. Times of Israel reports:Obama's remarks about the peace process sound hollow with no concrete proposals set out:
“Israel has shouldered a tremendous defence burden over the years and we have done it with the generous assistance of the United States of America.”
“.. as I’ve said repeatedly, the security of Israel is one my top foreign policy priorities and that has expressed itself not only in words but in deeds...I want to be very clear that we condemn in the strongest terms Palestinian violence against innocent Israeli citizens and I want to repeat once again that it is my strong belief that Israel has not just the right but an obligation to protect itself. We have closer military and intelligence cooperation than any two administrations in history. The military assistance that we provide we consider not only an important part of our obligation to the state of Israel, but also an important part of US security infrastructure in the region.”
The White House said that it was unlikely that an Israeli-Palestinian peace deal would be achieved, or that peace talks would even be renewed, in the last 14 months of Obama’s term.Netanyahu reaffirmed to Obama before the meeting that he was committed to a two-state solution. However, it is not clear that there will be much Palestinian-claimed land left as Israel expands its settlements over more and more territory. Perhaps the announcement of preliminary approval of another 2,000 new settlement homes near Ramallah was released just as the Netanyahu Obama meeting took place to emphasize to the US the reality of the situation. Obama did not ask that Netanyahu freeze settlements.
“I also will discuss with the prime minister his thoughts on how we can lower the temperature between Israelis and Palestinians, how we can get back on a path toward peace and how we can make sure that legitimate Palestinian aspirations are met through a political process even as we make sure that Israel is able to secure itself."Netanyahu replies in kind noting that Israelis have not given up their hope of peace and never will. Netanyahu envisions two states for two peoples, a demilitarised Palestinian state that recognizes the Jewish state. There appears little hope for that. However, Netanyahu can realistically hope for a much better armed Israel a situation likely to result in continued repression and conflict with Palestinians.