The crisis between Washington and Yerushalayim is over. The two sides agreed that although there are numerous points of disagreement between them, all the misunderstandings will be set aside, and for the remainder of President Obama’s term, all will focus on finding ways to create understanding and joint activities while maintaining a friendly relationship, the way it had always been.
That is the bottom line of the summit that took place on Monday evening in Washington, D.C., between President Barack Obama and Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, after a long period of disconnection and the coldness that has characterized their personal relationship and that of the two countries.
At the end of a nearly three-hour meeting, in a clear attempt at reconciliation between the two leaders, both sides agreed that Israel and the United States would form joint task forces that will examine the consequences of the Iranian agreement on a wide range of areas. Concurrently, the IDF will be compensated with an expansive defense package, which includes more advanced fighter aircraft, helicopters and land vehicles. The intelligence cooperation between the two sides will increase and they will coordinate military actions relating to the events in the Middle East.
The White House staff, headed by the president, went out of their way to display warmth and closeness. The Americans agreed to significantly increase the monetary aid to Israel for the next year, and committed to significant aid in the 10 years to come as well, although the exact amount of future aid was not determined.
Contrary to Palestinian expectations, the crisis with them was mentioned, but only in passing. Issues such as the crisis in Syria, ISIS, the Sinai, Yemen and the Russian intervention in Syria received more attention than the Palestinian issue.
Although Prime Minister Netanyahu repeated his declaration that Israel is obligated to the two state solution, and even presented ideas to improve the Palestinians’ economic situation, from the fact that it was only discussed at the end of the meeting it was clear to the Americans that there is no solution in sight, certainly not during Obama’s term in office. Therefore, they came out on Israel’s side when saying that Israel has a right to defend itself with a firm hand against Palestinian terror.
At the beginning of the meeting, Obama neutralized the minefield of misunderstandings and disagreements between the sides on the Iranian nuclear issue by saying openly that it is the right of each side to interpret the Iranian agreement according to its understanding. Then he added: but this thing is behind us already. It’s a disagreement that was and no longer exists. And if the signed agreement has consequences in one area or another, we will examine them with joint task forces and rectify whatever is necessary, he said.
Netanyahu took the opportunity to call on the president, and on Americans in general, to examine Teheran’s behavior from the angle of the support it provides to global terror and the danger that the Iranians pose with their behavior.
President Obama repeated his obligation to maintain Israel’s qualitative military advantage and to provide economic aid. He hinted that the administration would continue to stand beside Israel when various issues come up for vote in international forums, but did not offer a blanket obligation to do so in every case and at every opportunity.
The feeling at the end of the meeting was that both sides understand that they have to finish Obama’s final year without fireworks or explosions, and therefore had to part with a pledge to maintain their friendship and not to foster animosity and hate.
President Obama again declared that “the security of the state of Israel is at the top of his list of priorities.” To that, Netanyahu replied that “even when we disagreed, we felt that our relationship with the American nation and its leaders were strong and stable.”
The president spoke about the wave of terror that has hit Israel and said that “the United States condemns the executors of the attacks, and together with Israel, the administration will try to find ways to lower the flames. Certainly we will be pleased if the sides will once again take the path to peace, as we recognize the legitimacy of the Palestinians, but it cannot come on account of the security demands of Israel.”
Obama twice stressed in his public remarks, before and after the meeting, that “there are no differences of opinion between Israel and the United States regarding the determination that Iran must not have nuclear weapons.”
Netanyahu replied by emphasizing that the sides must now discuss the consequences that the agreement with Iran could have, as well as other developments in the Middle East in general and Syria in particular, and what significance they could have on Israel’s strategic needs.