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Returning from Hawaii. (Photo/WWR)

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

West Wing Report, July 6, 2010

Netanyahu Visit: Make Up Session?

The Mideast peace process, or lack thereof, is center stage today when Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu visits the White House.

Netanyahu and President Obama have a love-hate relationship: they need each other, and have to deal with each other, but agree to disagree on the big issues like Iran and the Mideast peace process.

Israel's top concern is the nuclear menace of Iran, and the Mideast peace process second. Israel sees itself as living in a bad neighborhood, with one neighbor - Tehran - threatening to destroy it with nuclear weapons most of the world is convinced it is rushing to construct.

The White House agrees that Iran is a threat; Obama is ratcheting up what the administration hopes will be tough new sanctions designed to weaken the Iranian regime and bring it to the negotiating table. Even so, the White House priority - for now - appears to be getting Israel to the negotiating table. Obama wants a two-state solution that would establish another Palestinian nation. This, the President feels, is the key to everything. It would, to use one of his favorite phrases, "lower the temperature" in the region, placate Israel's Arab neighbors and thus enhance regional security for all.

The tension between the two men is evident in the theatrics behind today's meeting. When recent world leaders have visited the White House - like France's Nicolas Sarkozy, Afghanistan's Hamid Karzai or, most recently, Russia's Dmitry Medvedev - there has been a full blown news conference in the East Room, with both leaders standing side by side before the cameras.

Today, there'll be just a short Oval Office statement and maybe a question or two from the press pool - a small group of reporters.

Chilly as that is, at least it's an improvement from May, when Obama left the Israeli leader alone for hours in the West Wing and allowed no photos of them together.

Obama is unhappy with continued construction of Israeli housing in territory claimed by Palestinians - and that recent raid on a ship carrying aid to Gaza aid ship didn't improve his mood either.

But Obama's displeasure has its limits. Republicans and Jewish groups are questioning the President's commitment to Israel and think it'll hurt already vulnerable Democrats in November.

The White House sees it differently, characterizing the rift as just a disagreement among friends. By pressuring Israeli to the negotiating table, Obama thinks he's acting in the best long-term interests of the Jewish state - making a peace deal, the President thinks - is essential to its survival.

President's Schedule


9:30AM In-Town Travel Pool Call Time

9:30AM THE PRESIDENT receives the Presidential Daily Briefing
Oval Office
Closed Press

10:00AM THE PRESIDENT receives the Economic Daily Briefing
Oval Office
Closed Press

11:00AM THE PRESIDENT meets with Prime Minister Netanyahu of Israel
Oval Office
Closed Press

12:00PM THE PRESIDENT holds a joint press availability with Prime Minister Netanyahu
Oval Office
Pooled Press (Gather Time 11:50AM – Brady Press Briefing Room)

12:35PM THE PRESIDENT has a working lunch with Prime Minister Netanyahu
Cabinet Room
Closed Press

4:30PM THE PRESIDENT meets with Secretary of Defense Gates
Oval Office
Closed Press

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