News / Middle East

    Obama, Netanyahu Face Challenge of Improving Their Relationship

    Obama, Netanyahu Face Challenge of Improving Their Relationshipi
    X
    March 14, 2013 1:06 AM
    The United States and Israel are close allies, but their leaders have had a rocky relationship over the past four years. VOA's Michael Lipin takes a look at the disputes between U.S. President Barack Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
    Obama, Netanyahu Face Challenge of Improving Their Relationship
    The United States and Israel are among the world's closest allies, but their leaders have had a rocky relationship over the past four years.

    President Barack Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu have disagreed in public repeatedly on how to deal with Iran's controversial nuclear program and Jewish housing on occupied land claimed by Palestinians. That poses a challenge to the two leaders as they prepare to meet in Israel this month.

    Their first major dispute began in Cairo in June 2009. In a speech to the Arab world, Obama criticized Israel's policy of building Jewish homes on West Bank land the Palestinians want for a state.

    "The United States does not accept the legitimacy of continued Israeli settlements," Obama said.

    Days later, Netanyahu responded by saying Israel needs to let settlers "lead normal lives" - a euphemism for building more homes.

    Disagreeing on Jerusalem

    In March 2010, Israel approved new housing in Palestinian-claimed East Jerusalem as Vice President Joe Biden visited the country. Biden quickly condemned the Israeli move at Obama's request, saying it undermined the trust needed to begin Israeli-Palestinian peace talks.

    Netanyahu rejected that condemnation. In remarks to U.S. pro-Israel group AIPAC in Washington, he said the Jewish people have a right to build anywhere in what they consider to be their united capital.

    "Everyone knows that these neighborhoods (of East Jerusalem) will be part of Israel in any peace settlement," Netanyahu said.

    When the Israeli prime minister went to the White House the next day, President Obama appeared to snub him. There was no official photo of their meeting.

    Aaron David Miller, vice president of the Washington-based Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, said these incidents were signs of deteriorating relations.

    "This is the worst relationship between an American president and an Israeli prime minister in the history of U.S.-Israel relations," Miller said. "Menachem Begin and Jimmy Carter had tensions, Yitzhak Shamir and George H.W. Bush had tensions, but they found a way to work together. Obama and Netanyahu have not."

    Failed peace effort

    Obama brought Netanyahu and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas to the White House for peace talks in September 2010.

    But the initiative collapsed as Netanyahu ended a 10-month freeze on West Bank housing starts and Abbas protested by refusing further talks.

    Obama tried to revive the process in May 2011. In a speech at the State Department, he publicly endorsed a longstanding Palestinian demand.

    "The borders of Israel and Palestine should be based on the 1967 lines with mutually agreed swaps, so that secure and recognized borders are established for both states," he said.

    A day later, Netanyahu challenged the president's position during a face-to-face White House meeting in front of the cameras.

    "While Israel is prepared to make generous compromises for peace, it cannot go back to the 1967 lines because these lines are indefensible," he said.

    Election interference?

    More tension surfaced in July 2012, when Netanyahu warmly greeted visiting Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney, a critic of Obama's policy on Israel. Obama supporters accused the Israeli leader of taking sides in the U.S. election.

    Supporters of Netanyahu made the same accusation against the U.S. president prior to Israel's election in January. Earlier that month, American political commentator Jeffrey Goldberg had quoted Obama as saying "Israel doesn't know what its own best interests are."

    After Netanyahu was asked to form the next Israeli government, Obama agreed to make his first presidential visit to Israel.

    Motives for cooperation

    Miller said the U.S. president wants to see if the Israeli prime minister can work with him to resolve regional problems.

    "Obama stands to be the American president on whose watch Iran either gets the (nuclear) bomb or has to be bombed (by him), and he also stands to be the American president on whose watch the (Israeli-Palestinian) two-state solution expires," he said. "Prime Minister Netanyahu was weakened by the Israeli election and understands that he has same two problems."

    Both leaders accuse Iran of trying to develop nuclear weapons under cover of a civilian energy program and refuse to rule out military strikes to stop it. But, Obama has said more time is needed for sanctions and diplomacy, while Netanyahu has demanded the setting of a deadline for action.

    Enduring partnership

    Miller said those differences have not weakened the basis of the U.S.-Israel alliance.

    "It does not really matter what happens at the top (of the leaderships)," Miller said. "The security cooperation continues to improve, the institutional ties deepen. The public dimension also is important, with the American Jewish community playing a critical role in orchestrating (U.S. support for Israel). But, the foundation of that support lies in non-Jewish elites and the general public."

    While in Jerusalem, Obama is expected to dine with Netanyahu under the media spotlight. The world will be watching to see if they can move closer to achieving peace in the Middle East.


    Michael Lipin

    Michael covers international news for VOA on the web, radio and TV, specializing in the Middle East and East Asia Pacific. Follow him on Twitter @Michael_Lipin

    You May Like

    Russian-Backed Offensive in Syria Pushes War to Tipping Point

    As threat to Aleppo and rebel forces grows, US plan to negotiate becomes less and less appealing for Syrian government, says one military analyst

    IS Runs Timber Smuggling Business in Afghanistan, Officials Say

    Government turning blind eye to smuggling, according to tribal leaders; Afghanistan's forest cover dropped by 50 percent in three decades, experts say

    Video White House Seeks $1.8 Billion to Combat Zika

    Obama administration says funding would 'support essential strategies to combat the virus' such as rapidly expanding mosquito control programs, accelerating vaccine research

    This forum has been closed.
    Comments
         
    There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    'No Means No' Program Targets Sexual Violence in Kenyai
    X
    February 08, 2016 4:30 PM
    The organizers of an initiative to reduce and stop rape in the informal settlements around Kenya's capital say their program is having marked success. Girls are taking self-defense classes while the boys are learning how to protect the girls and respect them. Lenny Ruvaga reports from Nairobi.
    Video

    Video 'No Means No' Program Targets Sexual Violence in Kenya

    The organizers of an initiative to reduce and stop rape in the informal settlements around Kenya's capital say their program is having marked success. Girls are taking self-defense classes while the boys are learning how to protect the girls and respect them. Lenny Ruvaga reports from Nairobi.
    Video

    Video New Hampshire Voters Are Independent, Mindful of History

    Once every four years, the northeastern state of New Hampshire becomes the center of the U.S. political universe with its first-in-the-nation presidential primary. What's unusual about New Hampshire is how seriously the voters take their role and the responsibility of being among the first to weigh in on the candidates.
    Video

    Video Chocolate Lovers Get a Sweet History Lesson

    Observed in many countries around the world, Valentine’s Day is sometimes celebrated with chocolate festivals. But at a festival near Washington, the visitors experience a bit more than a sugar rush. They go on a sweet journey through history. VOA’s June Soh takes us to the festival.
    Video

    Video 'Smart' Bandages Could Heal Wounds More Quickly

    Simple bandages are usually seen as the first line of attack in healing small to moderate wounds and burns. But scientists say new synthetic materials with embedded microsensors could turn bandages into a much more valuable tool for emergency physicians. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Bhutanese Refugees in New Hampshire Closely Watching Primary Election

    They fled their country and lived in refugee camps in neighboring Nepal for decades before being resettled in the northeastern U.S. state of New Hampshire -- now the focus of the U.S. presidential contest. VOA correspondent Aru Pande spoke with members of the Bhutanese community, including new American citizens, about the campaign and the strong anti-immigrant rhetoric of some of the candidates.
    Video

    Video Researchers Use 3-D Printer to Produce Transplantable Body Parts

    Human organ transplants have become fairly common around the world in the past few decades. Researchers at various universities are coordinating their efforts to find solutions -- including teams at the University of Pennsylvania and Rice University in Houston that are experimenting with a 3-D printer -- to make blood vessels and other structures for implant. As VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Houston, they are also using these artificial body parts to seek ways of defeating cancerous tumors.
    Video

    Video Helping the Blind 'See' Great Art

    There are 285 million blind and visually impaired people in the world who are unable to enjoy visual art at a museum. One New York photographer is trying to fix this situation by making tangible copies of the world’s masterpieces. VOA correspondent Victoria Kupchinetsky was there as visually impaired people got a feel for great art. Joy Wagner narrates her report.
    Video

    Video Sanders, Clinton Battle for Young Democratic Vote

    Despite a narrow loss to former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in last week's Iowa Democratic caucuses, Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders secured more than 80 percent of the vote among those between the ages of 18 and 29. VOA correspondent Aru Pande talks to Democrats in New Hampshire about who they are leaning towards and why in this week's primary.
    Video

    Video German Artists to Memorialize Refugees With Life Jacket Exhibit

    Sold in every kind of shop in some Turkish port towns, life jackets have become a symbol of the refugee crisis that brought a million people to Europe in 2015.  On the shores of Lesbos, Greece, German artists collect discarded life jackets as they prepare an art installation they plan to display in Germany.  For VOA, Hamada Elrasam has this report from Lesbos, Greece.
    Video

    Video E-readers Help Ease Africa's Book Shortage

    Millions of people in Africa can't read, and there's a chronic shortage of books. A non-profit organization called Worldreader is trying to help change all that one e-reader at a time. VOA’s Deborah Block tells us about a girls' school in Nairobi, Kenya where Worldreader is making a difference.
    Video

    Video Genius Lets World Share Its Knowledge

    Inspired by crowdsourcing companies like Wikipedia, Genius allows anyone to edit anything on the web, using its web annotation tool
    Video

    Video In Philippines, Mixed Feelings About Greater US Military Presence

    In the Philippines, some who will be directly affected by a recent Supreme Court decision clearing the way for more United States troop visits are having mixed reactions.  The increased rotations come at a time when the Philippines is trying to build up its military in the face of growing maritime assertiveness from China.  From Bahile, Palawan on the coast of the South China Sea, Simone Orendain has this story.
    Video

    Video Microcephaly's Connection to Zika: Guilty Until Proven Innocent

    The Zika virus rarely causes problems for the people who get it, but it seems to be having a devastating impact on babies whose mothers are infected with Zika. VOA's Carol Pearson has more.
    Video

    Video Stunning Artworks Attract Record Crowds, Thanks to Social Media

    A new exhibit at the oldest art museum in America is shattering attendance records. Thousands of visitors are lining up to see nine giant works of art that have gotten a much-deserved shot of viral marketing. The 150-year-old Smithsonian American Art Museum has never had a response quite like this. VOA's Julie Taboh reports.