The lifting of the blockade on the Gaza Strip and permission for Palestinians to leave the Gaza Strip freely through Israeli border crossings. These are the unequivocal demands that President Barack Obama is expected to make during his meeting with Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu in the White House in two weeks.
If anyone thought that lifting the economic blockade of the Gaza Strip would satisfy the Americans, it is now clear to them that is only the beginning. Reliable sources who have been apprised of the preparations that the White House is making for the meeting between Obama and Netanyahu revealed that the demands are much more significant. While Obama voiced his satisfaction with the relief measures that Israel announced, he believes that the situation in which more than a million and a half inhabitants of the Gaza Strip are living is intolerable.
The American president is particularly angry that the inhabitants are not free to leave the Gaza Strip. He sees that as a kind of “collective punishment.” Political sources say that Netanyahu, who has chosen not to change the situation with the Gaza Strip, now finds himself under a great deal of international pressure and must act under pressure from the United States.
Obama also intends to examine the issue of extending the construction freeze with Netanyahu. It may be assumed that Netanyahu will make a continuation of the construction freeze conditional upon going over to direct talks with Abu Mazen.
But considering the firm demands to be made in the private meetings, White House officials are planning quite a warm reception for Netanyahu. Obama’s advisers are preparing quite a few “photo ops” in which the president and Netanyahu will be seen together in public. According to the plan, they will go out into the Rose Garden, which overlooks Obama’s office, where they will answer questions from the media.
Reliable sources say that one of the reasons for the special effort is requests from Jewish Democrats running in the interim Congressional elections this coming November, who are urging the White House to provide them with “friendly pictures” of Obama and Netanyahu.
White House officials are even looking into the possibility that Obama will invite the Israeli prime minister to come with him to Camp David for talks that will go far into the night. The president’s advisers are examining the idea, the purpose of which, in essence, is to see first-hand which compromises Netanyahu is willing to strive for in a final status arrangement with the Palestinians and with Syria.
Sources in Washington explained that Obama expects to hear from Netanyahu “not only slogans about his willingness to enter negotiations with Abu Mazen and with Assad,” but to show clearly what he means when he talks about two states — Israel and Palestine — existing side by side. Another subject about which the American president expects an answer is Israel’s willingness to withdraw from the Golan Heights as part of a peace treaty with Syria.
Perhaps the most sensitive issue that is going to be discussed in the talks between the two leaders is Obama’s view that the world must give up nuclear weapons. Since Netanyahu is very well aware that the opinions of American decision-makers on this matter have changed, he will try to receive guarantees that for now, there will be no change in American policy regarding Israel’s nuclear capability.