Bad tidings await Netanyahu on US trip
On the eve of the prime minister's flight to Washington, sources in the White House warn that there will not be good tidings regarding Israel's compensation package for the Iran nuclear deal in his meeting with Obama, saying that Federal budget cuts are part of the issue.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will not be getting what he wants out of his trip to Washington, according to White House sources who spoke with the New York Times on Friday.
The sources claimed that Israel would not be getting an increased compensation package from the US government. Netanyahu is due to take off for Washington on Sunday in order to meet US President Barack Obama, the first meeting between the two since the signing of the Iran nuclear deal.
One of Netanyahu's central goals for the trip was to strike an agreement on a new defense deal for Israel for the next decade, including compensation Israel was supposed to receive in light of the Iran deal.
The White House sources noted that the issue would not come up in the meeting between Netanyahu and Obama, and furthermore claimed that any compensation would not be increased as had been suggested in earlier reports.
"There is no justification for an increased compensation package, especially in light of the Federal budget cuts and the current battle in Congress over the 'wastage' of the US government," a White House source said.
It was reported this week that Israel requested that the US raise its yearly security assistance sum from the current $3 billion to $5 billion. Israel's first proposal was leaked to Reuters by an Israeli source.
According to the document, Israel had been pushing for the desired $5 billion yearly aid package to run for 10 years – amounting to a total sum of $50 billion. Obama is not expected to authorize this agreement, instead granting Israel a billion dollars less.
Also overshadowing the forthcoming meeting are the soured relations between Jerusalem and Washington following Netanyahu's repeated attacks on the Iran deal, as well as his speech to Congress on the matter.
Following the deal, Democratic members of Congress also had their invitations to a Rosh Hashanah press conference at the Israeli embassy in Washington canceled – solely for the reason that they had voted in favor of the Iran agreement.
The New York Times claimed that Netanyahu had changed the compensation package proposal and that he was traveling to Washington in order to try and heal the rifts in the US-Israel relationship.
However, the two sides still regard each with suspicion and mistrust.
Obama does not believe negotiations will recommence while he is in officeObama does not believe that negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians will recommence before the end of his term in the White House, one of his senior advisors told a press briefing held ahead of Netanyahu's visit.
The advisor, Ben Rhodes, told reporters that in Obama's view, no peace deal would be reached by January 2017 – the date that he leaves the office of the president.
"Despite what we were wanting, we do not see the chance for a two-state solution at the moment," Rhodes said. "We tried direct and indirect dialogue, but each time we were at the point of taking a decision, the two sides themselves did not take sufficient steps.
"Part of our appraisal is based on the reality on the ground," Rhodes added. In light of the current state of affairs, Obama is not likely to apply pressure on Netanyahu to renew peace talks.
"In the immediate term we will seek trust-building measures in order to lower the tension, reduce the violence and incitement and leave open the option of a two-state solution," Rhodes continued.
"We want to hear from the prime minister which steps Israel is prepared to take in order to safeguard the Palestinians' aspirations," Rhodes emphasized. "Obama believes that settlement-building damages trust and makes it difficult to realize the solution of a viable Palestinian state."
Also in the background of Netanyahu's upcoming visit is the affairs concerning Netanyahu's newly-appointed spokesman Dr. Ran Baratz. Immediately following the appointment, numerous harsh statements made by Baratz about senior US officials – including Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry – came to light.
After Netanyahu's speech to Congress, Baratz wrote on Facebook: "Obama's attitude to Netanyahu's speech is what modern anti-Semitism looks like in Western liberal countries."
Baratz also ridiculed US Secretary of State John Kerry on October 18, 2014 when he posted on Facebook that he was present at a speech given by Kerry during which, according to Baratz, he made a connection between Israel and Islamic State.
"After his tenure as secretary of state he is assured a prosperous career as a stand-up comic in one of the clubs of Kansas City, Mosul, or the Holot detention center," wrote Baratz.
State Department Spokesperson John Kirby called Baratz's statements "troubling and offensive."
"We obviously expect government officials from any country, especially our closest allies, to speak respectfully and truthfully about senior US government officials," Kirby said.
Following the revelations, Netanyahu promised Kerry that he would reconsider his appointment of Baratz.
"These statements do not reflect my stance nor government policy," Netanyahu said. "Dr. Baratz has apologized for his statements and requested to clarify them in a meeting with me. We have agreed to meet on my return to Israel."
In spite of his promise, Netanyahu then tweeted that he has not promised to reconsider the appointment but that he will deal with the issue on his return from the US.