We, both here in Washington, D.C., at the annual AIPAC Convention, and elsewhere, know the following: President Obama and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu are going to meet tomorrow. But when? For how long? Will there be pictures? And what, after the fuss of the last two weeks, will they say to each other? As of this afternoon, these questions remained unanswered, according to officials in Israel’s Foreign Ministry. It’s more than a little reminiscent of what happened the last time the two leaders met, in November—only this time, the details of protocol are being held up until plans for the very public White House signing of the historic health-care legislation are finalized.
But Bibi will have his public turn tonight in front of the AIPAC crowd. He’s expected to declare that Jerusalem is “not a settlement”—hence his refusal to back down on the government’s plan to build 1600 new homes in a Jewish area of East Jerusalem. (The same line went over very well with the crowd this morning when AIPAC’s executive director, Howard Kohr, tested it out.) Perhaps even as you read this, he is meeting with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who earlier today told the AIPAC audience that the problem was never the apartments themselves, but rather the exposure of that infamous daylight between the Americans and the Israelis. “It undermines America’s unique ability to play an essential role in the peace process,” she told the crowd. “This is not about wounded pride. This is about getting everyone to the table and creating and protecting an atmosphere of trust around it.”
One person who didn’t seem at all fussed about the fuss was Israeli opposition leader Tzipi Livni, who visited her friend, White House National Security Advisor James Jones—the same Jones who said last fall, at the J Street conference, that peace was Obama’s top foreign-policy priority —and then, looking almost Grace Kelly-esque in a smooth blonde ponytail and black boatneck dress, swanned over to a luncheon at the Renaissance Hotel across the street from the AIPAC convention headquarters. There, she told the capacity crowd that she, for one, had nothing to publicly say about her political rival Netanyahu, or the recent “disagreement.” “There are places and times to have these discussions,” she said, giving a sly shrug. “This is not the time and the place to do it.”