The prime minister will undergo a corrective experience in the White House Tuesday: President Obama will shake his hand before the cameras, utter a few polite words of encouragement, and later serve the PM a strictly kosher lunch. It won’t be like Netanyahu’s previous visit, which was held far away from the cameras, almost in hiding, amid a sour atmosphere and bearing the characteristics of a military hazing ceremony.
This time around, the US Administration will make an effort to go above and beyond to impress Netanyahu: Several days ago, White House staff reviewed the menu with Israeli representatives, asked about the culinary tastes of the prime minister and his aides, and whether they want their meal salt free, partly baked, or grilled. Even the issue of cholesterol came up.
On top of it, despite the holiday in the US, members of the Blair House maintenance staff were called in the other day in order to change the sheets in the presidential guesthouse and prepare it ahead of the Netanyahus’ arrival. The White House only puts the Blair House at the disposal of guests who are dear to it.
For 24 hours, Netanyahu will feel as though he is on top of the world, but he must not get blinded by it. Obama’s demands will be enveloped by soft words, yet the message will be decisive and uncompromising, and can be summed up in three words: Palestinian state now.
No free lunchesThe meeting between the two leaders will be mostly characterized by attention to the finer details. Direct talks are necessary, in America’s view as well, yet the main question is what will be discussed in them. Obama and his people view a solution to the conflict mostly as a matter of boldness, by all sides, and now it’s Netanyahu’s turn to commit – after Abbas and Saudi King Abdullah did it last month in the Oval Office.
Everyone knows what needs to be done and now is the time for the courage test. This is why white House officials attribute great significance to Tuesday’s meeting.
Obama will present Netanyahu with a comprehensive review of the progress in curbing Iran’s nuclear program. He will present him with everything that the US has done in order to impose the harsh sanctions on Iran – not only the ones in the Security Council but also the additional ones by the US Congress. On this front, Obama did more than any other president before him, and hence the prime minister will not be able to divert the conversation to the Iranian threat, as always, and evade the issue of peace.
Netanyahu will emerge out of the White House with a smile on his face. The president is organizing a favorable backdrop for him. However, as Netanyahu knows well, in Washington there are no free lunches. Today it will be made clear to him, politely, that the time for payment has come.