Entries in Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (4)


"Reality" Weighs Heavy on Obama's Mideast Peace Efforts

Photo by Lior Mizrahi/Getty Images(JERUSALEM) -- Middle East peace has been slow going for President Obama, as his administration's relationship with Israel has unfolded under his presidency in fits and starts.

In his first year in office, Obama brought the two sides together in New York, meeting with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas at the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel while the U.N. General Assembly convened.

There was some hope for progress after a Bush administration that largely kept its hands off, constrained by the Second Intifada Palestinian uprising for most of George W. Bush's time in office.

Obama hosted Netanyahu, Abbas, King Abdullah of Jordan and then-Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak for a multilateral summit at the White House in September 2010, but four years into his presidency, Mubarak has been ousted as part of the "Arab Spring" movement Obama championed, and replaced by a parliament in which the Muslim Brotherhood wields much power.

The president has yet to produce major progress -- or at least a major, Clinton-esque photo-op -- in Middle East peace on which to hang his hat.

Thursday, as Obama met with Abbas, it appears unlikely that he will bring the two sides together during this trip.

"He hasn't abandoned the peace process, but he appears to be coming to terms with the reality of it, and acknowledging, at least implicitly, his contribution to getting us to where we are today," said Noah Pollak, executive director of the Emergency Committee for Israel, a hard-line, pro-Israel nonprofit that has leveled withering criticism at Obama and fellow Democrats in TV ads.

During his visit to Israel, Obama confronts a new political landscape in his second term.

The president lost more support among U.S. Jews than among any other demographic group between 2008 and his re-election in 2012, except for white 18-29 year olds. His Jewish support fell 9 percentage points, according to national exit polls.

Still, Obama won re-election despite fierce attacks not only from Pollak's group, but from Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney, who aired TV ads criticizing Obama's perceived view of the U.S.-Israeli relationship. Despite accusations that he is not a friend of Israel, and despite the drop-off in support, the president won 69 percent of Jewish voters on Election Day, far outstripping Romney's 30 percent.

"The calculus is now different," one American Israel activist, who asked not to be named, said. "With the elections both here and in Israel...he's starting to get a handle on the politics around this issue, and the American Jewish politics on this issue, and how to manage them both on a communal level in Congress."

Obama flashed a willingness to defy his pro-Israel opponents in nominating former Nebraska Sen. Chuck Hagel as his new secretary of defense this year. Hagel drew sharp criticism from Israeli activists and Republican senators who pilloried his record and past statements, including a comment referring to pro-Israel groups as the "Jewish lobby," opposition to unilateral sanctions on Iran, support for talks with Hamas, and opposition to deeming Iran's Revolutionary Guard Corps a terrorist group.

Obama met privately last week with a handful of Jewish leaders, reportedly telling them he would not travel to Israel with a "grand peace plan" to offer.

It appears that in the near term -- during this trip, at least -- Obama isn't looking for a sudden leap forward on peace talks. The White House denied a report in Israeli news outlet Yediot Aharonot that the president plans to offer a deal in the next six months, barring progress between the two sides.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio


President Obama to Meet With Israel's Netanyahu

Alex Wong/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- The White House announced that President Obama will meet one-on-one with Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu on the sidelines next week as the United Nations considers the Palestinian request to be recognized as an official state, bypassing the stalled negotiations with Israel.

The U.S. will strongly oppose the move during the U.N. General Assembly meetings.

“We’ve been very clear don’t believe unilateral actions through the United Nations will lead to a Palestinian state,” said Deputy National Security Advisor Ben Rhodes at the White House in announcing the Netanyahu meeting.

Rhodes insisted the only workable process is negotiations between the Palestinians and Israelis.

“That’s the only way you’ll be able to deal with the issues of borders, and security, and the future of Jerusalem.”

President Obama has no plans to meet with Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas and Rhodes confirms the two men have not spoken in recent months.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Israeli Prime Minister Sends Strong Message to White House

Alex Wong/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's speech Tuesday before a joint meeting of Congress had all trappings of a State of the Union address by a president with sky-high approval ratings.

Speaking to a packed House chamber with Speaker Boehner and Vice President Biden over his shoulders, Netanyahu was repeatedly interrupted by applause -- more than 50 rounds of it, including 29 standing ovations. One of his biggest applause lines was aimed directly at President Obama.

"Israel will not return to the indefensible boundaries of 1967," Netanyahu said, prompting a big standing ovation. Later he added: "Israel on the 1967 lines would be only 9 miles wide. So much for defensible borders."

As Netanyahu himself pointed out, the president has not called on Israel to return to the exact 1967 borders.  The president has said that a peace agreement should be "based on 1967 lines with mutually agreed swaps."

Nevertheless, Netanyahu's speech, and the thunderous bipartisan response, was a clear challenge to the idea of using the 1967 boundaries -- with or without "swaps" -- as a basis for a peace deal.

Netanyahu also got big ovations with hard-line statements on two other perennial sticking points to Israeli-Palestinian peace agreements:  No right of return for Palestinian refugees, and the insistance "Jerusalem will never again be divided.  Israel must remain the united Capital of Israel."

Lawmakers also booed at a protester who interrupted Netanyahu's speech.

Netanyahu arguably got a warmer reception than President Obama received during his last state of the union and certainly a warmer reception than he'd receive at the Knesset.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Hamas: Didn't Mean to Fire on Israeli School Bus

Uriel Sinai / Getty Images(JERUSALEM) -- Hamas said Saturday that militants did not intend to target an Israeli school bus that was hit two days ago by a Hamas-fired rocket. A 16-year-old boy was critically wounded in the attack and the bus driver was moderately wounded.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has accused the Islamic group Hamas, which rules Gaza, for crossing the line. Israeli officials said that because the bus was yellow, it should have been easily identifiable to anyone firing a rocket. They said they did not think it was likely that the bus would have been hit by accident.

Since then, Israel has engaged in a series of retaliation strikes on various Hamas targets.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

ABC News Radio