Netanyahu Heads to Washington

Netanyahu and Obama will meet Tuesday, each one wary of different political minefields. Washington Post: “Their mission is a photo op.”

Tags: Obama
Tzvi Ben Gedalyahu , | updated: 1:03 AM

Sarah Netanyahu and Prime Minister on board
Sarah Netanyahu and Prime Minister on board
Israel news photo: Flash 90

Iran, Congressional elections, the Israeli government coalition and suspicions in the Arab world are only some of the issues that will lie beneath the surface when Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu meets with U.S. President Barack Obama at the White House Tuesday.

Both leaders “have a deceptively simple mission: getting their picture taken together,” the Washington Post reported Monday night. “There are going to be more photographers there than at the Academy Awards,” Israeli’s Ambassador to the United States Michael Oren quipped.

Prime Minister Netanyahu left Israel late Monday night, leaving behind almost wall-to-wall opposition by the whips of his coalition parties who oppose an extension of the 10-month building freeze against building for Jews in Judea and Samaria. The freeze is to expire in September, and Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas has demanded it be extended permanently as a condition for his entering direct talks with Israel over the establishment of the PA as a new Arab country.

The only coalition partner not opposing the freeze is the Labor party, which has only 13 Knesset Members but which is headed by Defense Minister Ehud Barak, who has been on much better terms with U.S. President Barack Obama than the Prime Minister.

President Obama has warmly received Barak on two visits this year while the Prime Minister was given the cold shoulder following Israel's announcement of a bureacratic advancement for building homes for Jews in eastern Jerusalem the same day Vice President Joe Biden arrived in Israel.

The president will be meeting Prime Minister Netanyahu while looking over his shoulder at the Republican party, which has used the tensions between the American and Israeli leaders as a wedge in the growing crack of support for U.S. President Barack Obama.

The president’s foreign policy already is being picked apart because of the languishing wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and his failure to convince the United Nations Security Council to pass harsh sanctions against Iran.

"Republicans are accusing the administration of not being strong enough on flotilla incident," told Washington Post reporter Anne Kornblut. She noted that Ambassador Oren has said that Democratic moves, such as 54 of their Congressmen signing a letter critical of the partial embargo on Hamas-controlled Gaza, “have left the impression that Israel is ‘becoming a partisan issue,’ with Republicans being uniformly supportive where Democrats are not.”

Prime Minister Netanyahu and President Obama share the common goal of wanting direct talks between the Palestinian Authority and Israel, but given the political consequences of extending the building freeze, it is not known if the issue will be discussed at the White House.

On the other hand, failure to satisfy Arab demands could wreck the Arab world’s confidence in the Obama administration, which Obama's Cairo speech and subsequent actions, such as joining attempts to get Israel to sign the Nuclear Proliferation Treaty, have been seen as trying to enhance.

"The United States has a big interest in advancing the peace process, in Gaza not dominating headlines in the Muslim world and radicalizing people from Morocco to Indonesia. And [Netanyahu] is not really very prepared to be flexible on those issues,” Bruce Riedel of the Brookings Institution told the Washington newspaper.