Today's Haaretz has a story from which it is becoming clear how Netanyahu is going to use the weak elements in Obama's approach towards him. In my posting of May 19 (in Dutch) about Netanyahu's visit to Washington, I wrote that Obama did two things well and made three mistakes. Well done, was that he did not go along with Netanyuahu's 'the-nuclear-threat-of-Iran-has-to-be-dealt-with-first-and-we-have-to-build-a- common-front-with-the-moderate-Arabs-against-it' story and kept to his diplomatic approach.
The second thing was that he did not seek the confrontation and managed to maintain a positive atmosphere. But his mistakes were grave. I listed three: a reference to the Roadmap for Peace, a long outdated concept which was moribund from the start anyway, with the 14 conditions that Sharon attached to it in his days and with it's quid-pro-quo formula which gave Israel endless excuses to procrastinate. Furthermore his proposal that a wider circle of Arab and Moslim countries would start to build relations with Israel parallel to the the peace process's take off. That would put the horse behind the cart, as it would reward Israel before it would have had to deliver. (Definitely a non starter since most Arab and muslim countries are quite weary of having cordial relations with Jerusalem before real peace has been achieved with the Palestinians). And his third mistake: he did not pay attention to a poll taken by the Arab American James Zogby's bureau, from which he could have learned that at least half of America would back him if he took a tougher stand against Israel. That gave him a 'free ticket' to not only ask for a stop on the settlements, but also to present Netanyahu with parameters of a settlement (to whom he should talk, about what kind of a two state model, according to which timetable, and so on).
And what does Haaretz report today: Netanyahu will, in the speech he is to give on Sunday, go along with the concept of two states according to the Roadmap. The state has to be demilitarized, and he attaches a 15th condition to the 14 provided by Sharon: The PA (undoubtedly the only partner he is willing to talk to) has to acknowledge that Israel is the homeland of the Jewish people. (Which equals foregoing the Right of Return and even the rights of the Palestinian Israeli's - and therefor is not even acceptable for Abu Mazen). At the same time N. embraces the concept that the circle of peace wil be broadened to a larger amount of Arab states while the process is going on. And he's willing to halt - temporarily - the building programs in the settlements. (But that's what Haaretz says, he is willing to do it, acording to the paper, but is not going to make mention of it himself).
Let's see what happens on Sunday. But would you be happy with a reaction like this if you were Obama? And what would you do if you were in his shoes?