In 2009, on this day at the White House, Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu met with US President Barack Obama to discuss proposals for Palestinians Statehood.
Obama and Netanyahu go eyeball to eyeballHistorically America had provided almost unqualified backing for Netanyahu's predecessors - ever since Harry Truman's vital diplomatic intervention in 1948 at the declaration of the State of Israel. And as late as the nineteen-sixties, Israel generally still enjoyed the moral high ground with even Robert Kennedy providing advocacy. Yet even before Kennedy was gunned down by an enraged Palestinian student, this had all changed.
Because in the days leading up to the Six-Day War, the Chief of Staff of the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) Yitzkah Rabin suffered a nervous breakdown and was simply unable to function. Prime Minister Levi Eshkol did not have much military experience, and had given the IDF a relatively free hand. This was no great problem for the previous four years, but Rabin was replaced by Ariel Sharon, a firm believer in establishing "facts on the ground". During the climax to the Six-Day War, Sharon would not only "recapture" East Jerusalem, but exceed his authoriy by expelling its Arab population. Sharon would later justify this military action by claiming with some justification that he had prevented accusations of Israel being labelled a power of occupation by the international community.
And so by the summer of 1967 Israel was fast becoming a rogue state that would eventually turn to South Africa for a military alliance. Both nations considered themselves as a front-line state fighting communism, a viewpoint which had some some sympathisers in the Pentagon at least until the collapse of the Soviet Union.
"I firmly believe it is not in Iran's interest to develop nuclear weapons " ~ Barack Obama US presidentObama himself had no sympathy. In fact, his childhood mentor Frank Marshall Davis was himself a revolutionary communist intellectual who would very much picture the Palestinian Catastrophe in Marxist terms with the Israelis being the capitalist aggressors.
And so at the meeting Obama would urge Netanyahu to accept a Palestinian state with its capital in East Jerusalem, promising that the US would be "engaged in the process". Trouble was another source of authority who certainly intended to be "engaged in the process". Because Ariel Sharon had recovered from a stroke-induced coma to succeed Moshe Katsav as the 9th President of Israel. Therefore Netanyahu stated simply Israel was ready to live "side by side" with Palestinians and he could resume talks immediately, but any agreement depended on Palestinian acceptance of Israel's right to exist "as a Jewish state".
Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat reacted with derision to Netanyahu's remarks, stating "How can I govern myself by myself as a Palestinian with his occupation going on on my neck on the hour every hour? With his roadblocks segregating our towns and villages and refugee camps?" he said.
A week later, America and Israel managed to settle their differences, quickly restoring relations to their June 1967 pinnacle. Obama, Sharon and Netanyahu had little choice but to fast track their own peace process. Because by then they had received the "game changer" - the senational news of an underground nuclear test in the great nation of Iran.