President Obama got some strongly worded advice yesterday on how to deal with Israel’s Prime Minister Bibi Netanyahu, who’ll be making his first visit to the United States as Israel’s new leader in mid-May. The Obama-Netanyahu meeting promises to be a showdown.
Zbigniew Brzezinski, the veteran strategist and hardliner — who was Jimmy Carter’s national security adviser — told a conference yesterday that in the history of US peacemaking in the Middle East, the United States has never once spelled out its own vision for what a two-state solution would look like. That, said Brzezinski, is exactly what President Obama needs to do. And fast.
Brzezinski was speaking at a conference on US-Saudi relations sponsored by the New America Foundation and Saudi Arabia’s Committee on International Trade. Brzezinski, who advised Obama early in the presidential campaign, was exiled from Obamaland after his less-than-devout support for Israel made him a liability.
“The United States has to spell out the minimum parameters of peace,” said Zbig. Perhaps in deference to the conference’s Saudi sponsors, Brzezinski said that there is an “urgent need for a US-Saudi alliance for peace in the Middle East.” Other speakers on a star-studded opening panel were Chuck Hagel, the former Republican senator from Nebraska and Prince Turki al-Faisal, who served for decades as the head of Saudi Arabia’s intelligence service.
Turki, who also served as Saudi Arabia’s ambassador to the United States, warned Obama to preempt Netanyahu, who intends to tell the president that there can’t be progress in the Israel-Palestine conflict until the United States solves the problem of Iran’s pursuit of nuclear weapons to Israel’s satisfaction. Obama, said Turki, should tell the Israeli leader: “Mr. Netanyahu, you have to listen to me first.” Rita Hauser, the veteran conservative strategist on the panel, agreed: “Netanyahu has to learn very quickly that the president means business.”
Hauser, long associated with the RAND Corporation and other thinktanks, also said bluntly that the United States is going to have to deal with Hamas, which she called a “central element” of Palestinian politics. “Hamas will control Gaza,” she said. She urged the administration to take steps to encourage the formation of a Palestinian unity government, involving Hamas and Fatah, the central pillar of the old Palestine Liberation Organization.