WASHINGTON – Following US President Barack Obama's
announcement that he intends to visit Israel in the spring, predictions regarding the visit's effect on US-Israel ties and on the peace process between Israelis and Palestinians emerge.
Though US Vice President Joe Biden said that the US will try to promote peace between Israel and the Palestinians during John Kerry's term as secretary of state, Former top Obama adviser Dennis Ross,
said in an interview with MSNBC: "I don’t think the expectations are very high in terms of the president going out now and trying to produce something. I think what he's trying to do is trying to do is send a signal – that this is an issue that we care about. The Secretary of State, John Kerry,
will be working on it."
"There (is) an enormous array of issues in the region right now. There's Iran, there's Syria,
there's what's happening in Egypt."
The visit, Ross argued, will allow the US president "to talk about… issues, including the peace issue, and it's a good time to do it."
According to Ross, Obama's visit may help Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu,
"because it allows him to say 'we got the president coming; we got a government that can actually do things.'"
"From the standpoint of President Obama, it also gives him a chance to connect with the Israeli public… particularly when you're talking about peace or you're talking about Iran; he's able to address a public that will see he's quite serious."
According to Aaron Miiler, former US Middle East negotiator for the White House, "Four years in, the relationship between Obama and Netanyahu has become increasingly dysfunctional, and as leaders of close allies, they simply can't afford not to find a better way to communicate."
Miller, the vice president of the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, wrote in a CNN piece that "Whether Obama intends to push Netanyahu on peace process issues or pander to him, it's important to get the visit thing out of the way early in the second term… when there are no expectations that the presidential trip will produce dramatic deliverables."
Miller added that Obama and PM Netanyahu "must begin to test whether or not they can develop a strategic understanding of how to sequence and deal with Iran and the Palestinian issue," insisting that "Obama needs to reassure Netanyahu that if the Israelis give him time and space to pursue diplomacy with Iran and that talking fails, the United States will stop Iran from weaponizing with military force."
In order to offer his support to Israel, however, "Obama needs to hear that Netanyahu won't complicate his life by pushing high-profile settlement activity and that Israel will agree to negotiate in good faith on some of the final status issues such as security and territory."
Miller further noted that upon visiting Israel, Obama will not only have the "opportunity to show empathy in a powerful manner and help create a bond," but also the chance to end the "Obama-Bibi soap opera," upon which "common sense and the vital national interests of both Israel and the United States, not to mention the peace and prosperity of a good part of the Middle East, depend."
Despite cautious declarations, Dennis Ross concluded that "There's a chance for a new beginning – for the president, for Prime Minister Netanyahu. I think it's a good moment to try to focus on all the challenges in the region."
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