It would seem US President Barack Obama's first visit to Israel while in office has many important objectives, all of which risk putting Israel in a more dangerous position than it already is.
Last week we reported on speculation that Obama's visit has been timed to influence the make-up of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's new coalition. The Obama White House would like to see more left-leaning parties included to make it easier to press Israel to make concessions to the Palestinians.
There is no question that restarting the stalled Israeli-Palestinian peace process will be on the agenda. After being appointed the new US secretary of state last week, John Kerry wasted no time phoning Netanyahu and Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas to urge a return to the negotiating table.
"President Obama is naive as anybody else in the hope that they'll be able to speed up the negotiating process," warned Israeli legal expert and former ambassador to Canada, Alan Baker. "Israel has to be very, very clear here, that just in order to look good to President Obama, or look good to the European Union at the expense of our basic rights and security is something that won't be acceptable to Israelis. That's not the criteria."
Baker told Israel Today that Netanyahu will likely be able to withstand Obama's pressure, but the degree to which he will be successful will depend on the coalition Netanyahu is able to put together in the coming weeks. Which, again, might very much be why Obama is coming now.
[A full interview with Ambassador Alan Baker will appear in the April issue of Israel Today Magazine. Don't miss it - SUBSCRIBE NOW >>]
There is also mounting speculation that Obama will tell Israel not to launch any military action against Iran's defiant nuclear program in the coming months.
Last year, Netanyahu delivered a speech before the UN General Assembly during which he identified spring 2013 as a deadline for taking action before Iran reaches a "point of no return" in its quest to attain nuclear weapons.
With Obama's recent appointment of Kerry to the State Department and Chuck Hagel to the Defense Department, he has effectively signaled to Netanyahu and Israel will not have any direct American support if it chooses to preemptively strike Iran.
Knowing full well how to play this game, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad on Sunday said he was ready for direct, face-to-face talks with Obama, if the American stops supporting sanctions against his country. It was the kind of gesture that would make it impossible for a liberal US government to then back military action against Iran.
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