With Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Washington, DC for the annual AIPAC policy conference, his meeting this afternoon with President Obama has been looming large on the schedule. Obama sat down with Jeffrey Goldberg in the run-up to the meeting, putting pressure on Netanyahu to ensure the success of the next phase of the peace process. “Obama made it clear that he views Abbas as the most politically moderate leader the Palestinians may ever have,” Goldberg wrote. “It seemed obvious to me that the president believes that the next move is Netanyahu’s.”
Obama took a carefully scripted page from the Jewish scholar Hillel, maintaining that time was of the essence on the peace talks: “When I have a conversation with Bibi, that’s the essence of my conversation: If not now, when? And if not you, Mr. Prime Minister, then who? How does this get resolved? (Marc Tracy has a handy translation of the rest of what Obama said in the interview—and what he really meant.)
Obama and Bibi met briefly at the White House this afternoon, though the escalating tensions in Ukraine and Crimea are very much the day’s priority—an impatient-looking Obama addressed the developing situation to reporters afterwards, saying nothing of his meeting with the Israeli prime minister.
During the meeting, Netanyahu stayed firm on his belief that Israel was upholding its end of the peace process “Israel has been doing its part, I regret to say the Palestinians haven’t,” Netanyahu said, the AFP reports.
Ignoring Obama’s appeal, Netanyahu said the highest priority for Israel and the United States was not the peace process but preventing Iran from obtaining a military nuclear capacity.
The “greatest challenge, undoubtably, is preventing Iran from acquiring the capacity to make nuclear weapons,” he said.
Hopefully we’ll hear a bit more about the meeting when Bibi addresses the AIPAC convention tomorrow morning.
Stephanie Butnick is chief strategy officer of Tablet Magazine, co-founder of Tablet Studios, and a host of the Unorthodox podcast.