Obama Meets with Netanyahu
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DREW GRIFFIN: The president of the United States, the prime minister of Israel, both denying that their relationship is chilly or that the Israeli/U.S. friendship is anything but robust. Is it true? These two men have been frosty reportedly in the past. We'll talk to an expert, next.
GRIFFIN: We just heard remarks after the White House meeting between President Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. These two men have not seen eye to eye in the past. They're meeting today. Obviously, they were trying to shore this up and say basically there never was any rift between these two men. I want to bring in an expert on this, who has been watching this, and this is Daniel Pipes.
Daniel, you are the director of the Middle East Forum, joining us from Philadelphia. It seemed that they had a wide-ranging issues, here, Gaza, Palestinian talks, Iran nuclear capabilities. But at the center of it all, seemed to be a public display that these two men indeed are friends, can talk, and will work together.
DANIEL PIPES, DIRECTOR, MIDDLE EAST FORUM: Absolutely right. It was a remarkable demonstration. Words such as "wonderful," "excellent," and "special" prevailed. I think that was more important than any of the details, with the exception of one detail. Iran and Gaza were not that novel, but to have the president come out and confirm that there will be no changes to American policy, vis-à-vis the Israeli ownership of nuclear weapons – that was important. We hadn't heard that before.
So the headline news is, everything is hunky-dory. We all are getting along and let's look towards the future. This is very different from what has been the case the last year-and-a-half, despite what they said.
GRIFFIN: And I'm going to ask you why that is, because the president, as you heard in that news conference, when he took a few questions. One of the questions, he became a little bit defensive at that somehow his relations toward Israel are anything less than other president has been.
PIPES: Well, the president came in to office and focused right away on the most contentious aspect of U.S.-Israel nations, namely the West Bank and Jerusalem. But it quickly became apparent there are three drawbacks in this.
One, it hardened the Palestinians' position. They're more reluctant to negotiate with Israel. Two, it made the Israelis more reluctant to deal because they didn't trust the U.S. administration. And three, especially as we approach November, this has political consequences for the president and the Democratic Party.
So on all three grounds, there is no reason to sustain this tension and every reason to turn back and have this love-fest that we just witnessed. Remarkable.
GRIFFIN: Yes, obviously, Netanyahu needs the support of the U.S., but buried in there, you just said there might be some domestic political issue here as well for the president?
PIPES: Absolutely. The Washington Post has a piece today quoting one Republican after another in the forthcoming senatorial and congressional races, charging that the Obama administration is not friendly enough to Israel, and showing Democrats on the defensive. Indeed, a couple of Democrats are also criticizing the Obama administration – so this is not good politics.
And while that article focused on American Jews, it didn't quite notice there are a lot more than American Jews who vote with Israel in mind. In general it's Conservatives, and in particular Evangelicals. This is a substantial voting block at a time like this, a few months after the election. It's not a voting bloc one wants to alienate.
GRIFFIN: Let me ask you one question about the key issue that I gleaned from that in terms of security for both of these men. It didn't seem to involve Palestinians, it involved Iran and nukes and the suggestion being that these sanctions, these tough new sanctions that President Obama did sign, are working, but will only fully work if other countries are involved. Will the president do enough to prevent Israel from striking at Iran? Should the nuclear capability grow or was this aimed at trying to get China and Russia on board with sanctions?
PIPES: Well, all of the above and that's the $64 question and one I can't answer. Is this sufficient or not? Will the Iranians be turned back or not? My suspicion is no, that no sanctions, no matter how tough they are, will be sufficient to deter the Iranian regime its goal of building nuclear weapons. I just don't see it working.
But there is a seriousness of purpose under way, and a hope clearly on the American side that this will be enough so that Israelis or Americans do not need to use force. What the outcome is, it's too early to say. I think we're seeing is a build-up at this point and an affirmation of intention to avoid using military force without closing the door to the use of military force.
GRIFFIN: All right. Daniel Pipes from Philadelphia, director the Middle East Forum. Thanks for joining us shedding some light on this meeting.
We want to remind you, Daniel, and everybody else, be sure to watch Larry King Live tomorrow night. He will have a prime time exclusive interview with the Prime Minister of Israel, Benjamin Netanyahu. That starts at 9:00 p.m. Eastern, only on CNN.
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