Rahm Brushing Back Bibi?

by Brien Jackson

That would certainly seem to be the case, according to the largest daily newspaper in Israel:

Yedioth Achronoth, the largest circulation daily in Israel, reports today that President Obama intends to see the two-state solution signed, sealed and delivered during his first term.

Rahm Emanuel told an (unnamed) Jewish leader; “In the next four years there is going to be a permanent status arrangement between Israel and the Palestinians on the basis of two states for two peoples, and it doesn’t matter to us at all who is prime minister.”

He also said that the United States will exert pressure to see that deal is put into place.”Any treatment of the Iranian nuclear problem will be contingent upon progress in the negotiations and an Israeli withdrawal from West Bank territory,” the paper reports Emanuel as saying.  In other words, US sympathy for Israel’s position vis a vis Iran depends on Israel’s willingness to live up to its commitment to get out of the West Bank and permit the establishment of a Palestinian state there, in Gaza, and East Jerusalem.

It’s certainly the case that reports about American politics and foreign policy in foreign newspapers tend to be much less accurate than those in American papers, but the journalist who broke this is one of the most respected in all of Israel, and it certainly fits the character that is Rahm.

That said, if this is true, it’s a very big deal for US-Israel relations, and for the Israeli-Palestinian situation. For sure, it’s the toughest line the US has taken with Israel since committing itself to a two-state solution, and the first time in at least 2 decades the United States has seriously threatened to leverage Israel. The diplomatic context here is a little convoluted, but undeniably stark. In forming his new coalition, Benjamin Netanyahu had desperately wanted to bring Kadima into the fold, and keep Kadima leader Tzipi Livni as Foreign Minister. But Livni’s stated price for taking a junior role to Likud was too much for Bibi, and he was instead forced to give the position to the rabidly anti-Arab Avigdor Lieberman, a looming diplomatic disaster for both Bibi and Israel. What concession did Livni demand of Likud? A committment to the creation of an independent Palestinian state. In other words, Bibi was more willing to make a man who had previously advocated the bombing of Egypt’s Aswan Dam Foreign Minister than express a committment to a Palestinian state. By declaring that the US is committed to a two-state solution no matter who is prime minister, Emannuel is essentially stating that the US does not care what the Israeli government’s opinion on the question is. And in tying relations with Iran to Israeli withdrawal from the West Bank, Rham is articulating the most overt opposition to increased Israeli settlements since we stopped calling them illegal in diplomatic language. Again, if this is true, it’s a very big deal diplomatically.

It’s also important that it’s Rahm out front in delivering the message. Given that he is devoutly Jewish, and has actually served in the IDF, it will be hard to level accusations of insufficient affinity for Israel on the part of administration if they go through with this.

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