Experts Available to Discuss Obama-Netanyahu Meeting

May 18th, 2009

(Washington, DC) -- President Barack Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu meet today in Washington, DC amid growing signs of a policy clash between the United States and Israel over prospects for peace in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. As U.S. unease over Israel's policies in the Occupied Palestinian Territories mounts, the US Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation is making available experts for interviews and commentary on the Obama-Netanyahu meeting and what it means for U.S. policy toward Israel/Palestine.

Who: Phyllis Bennis, Senior Fellow, Institute for Policy Studies; Steering Committee Member, US Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation; Author, Understanding the Palestinian-Israeli Conflict: A Primer

According to Bennis, "President Obama, who has strongly supported the idea of a two-state solution since his campaign, has yet to articulate whether or not he is actually prepared to spend some of his massive political capital to exert serious pressure on Israel towards that end - for example by conditioning (even some) of the currently committed $30 billion in U.S. military aid to Israel, on a complete Israeli settlement freeze in the West Bank. If he means it, this could be the moment. Netanyahu's campaign rejection of the two-state solution, his rejection of continuing the current Israeli-Palestinian diplomacy and instead limiting negotiations to economic issues, and his extreme racist Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman all serve to make a serious U.S. effort towards Israeli accountability not only timely, but less politically costly than ever. However, although there is no question that President Obama supports a two-state solution in the abstract, that is not enough. The question is what he is willing to do to make it happen - since Israel on its own, secure in its so-far unconditional U.S. military aid and uncritical protection in the UN and elsewhere, has no intention of doing so."

Who: Bill Fletcher, Jr., Senior Scholar, Institute for Policy Studies; immediate past president of TransAfrica Forum; Steering Committee Member, US Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation; Co-Author, Solidarity Divided: The Crisis in Organized Labor and a New Path toward Social Justice

According to Fletcher, "The recent Israeli elections have put into place an administration completely hostile to a peaceful settlement of the Israeli/Palestinian conflict.  Netanyahu's refusal to speak to a two-state solution and instead to discuss economic advancement of the Palestinians is reminiscent of those in the early 20th century who held that African Americans should not challenge Jim Crow segregation but should rather improve themselves economically, as if economic advancement can happen for an oppressed people in the absence of political freedom.

"President Obama needs to put genuine pressure on the Israeli government. This means that there must be a policy of no-tolerance for continued Israeli settlements in the Occupied Territories; there must be a dismantling of settlements; there must be a cessation of Israeli provocative actions against the Palestinians; and there must be a commitment by Israel to a just settlement that guarantees genuine national self-determination for the Palestinians.  This is what must be asked of President Obama.  Continued unconditional support for Israel over the Palestinians brings us no closer to peace, but instead brings the world closer to catastrophe."

Who: Josh Ruebner, National Advocacy Director, US Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation; former Analyst in Middle East Affairs at Congressional Research Service.

According to Ruebner, "In order for President Obama to achieve his stated policy goals of ending Israel's siege of the Gaza Strip, freezing settlement expansion and halting home demolitions in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, and achieving a negotiated just peace in his first term, it is clear that he will need to exert U.S. leverage on Israel and its Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.  This means that the United States should end, or at the minimum, condition its military aid to Israel to achieve these goals.  Instead, however, President Obama recently asked for $2.775 billion in military aid for Israel in his FY2010 budget proposal with no string attached--an increase of $225 million over this year's allocation.  Providing Israel with this blank check is the surest way for the United States to continue to enable Israel's 42-year military occupation of the Palestinian West Bank, East Jerusalem, and the Gaza Strip and its systematic human rights abuses of Palestinians."

The US Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation is a national coalition of more than 280 organizations working to change to U.S. policy toward Israel/Palestine to support human rights, international law, and equality. For more information about the US Campaign, please click here.