In a few hours Netanyahu will meet Obama in the White House. Since not a single living person knows what will happen at the meeting, don't expect me to tell you. Nor should you believe anyone else. The two men will meet, they'll talk, and they'll see what happens, even though both come prepared with plans, plan Bs, counter plan Bs, and backup plan Cs.
Helene Cooper, in yesterday's NYT, wrote a commonly-held expectation; let's call it The Silly Expectation. The thesis of this narrative is that Obama will finally put pressure on Israel, real pressure, and this will bring peace. What pressure? First, accept the Two State Solution; second, stop building on the West Bank; third, remember that the Palestinians are people too; fourth, sit back and enjoy Peace and Tranquility for the Rest of History; fifth, applaud the Iranians for dismantling their nulear program. True, Ms. Cooper doesn't quite sat it in such a simplistic way, but that's the thrust. She's representative of pundits and fools the world over.
The problem, of course, is that the previous three Israeli prime minsters all did stages one-two-three, and in response the best they got was bobkes; some of them, such as Ehud Barak, Arik Sharon and Ehud Olmert, got much worse. The fallacy of the Silly Expectation being, of course, that for peace to arrive Israel does indeed need to dismantle lots of settlements, and enable the creation of a Palestinian State in Gaza and the West Bank, but the Palestinians also have to do a thing or two, such as work together; give up on the Right or Return; and officially declare the end of the conflict. Among other requirements: none of which is about to happen, alas.
I didn't vote for Netanyahu, and my feeling is that he won't do at the meeting what he should, namely proclaim, loud and clear: "Two States, Mr. President? But of course! One for the Jews called Israel, with an Arab minority, and one for the Palestinians. Of course, Mr. President! We agree on this fully. Now, if you can figure out a way to get there, we'll award you with a special medal, and enrol you in the Order of Impressive Magicians! But in the meantime, lets talk about Iran; at least that's a subject where something may still possibly be done".
I fear Netanyahu won't do that, unfortunately, but one way or the other I don't see how it will make a difference. According to all reports, both men are intelligent, perhaps even highly intelligent, as well as being surrounded by lots of intelligent and well-informed people; the likelihood either of them thinks peace can be had for the asking seems low.
And Iran? I don't know about that, either, except I think Jeffrey Goldberg's fine op-ed in yesterday's NYT is right in that Netanyahu may really be serious; he may really believe the most important thing he'll do in life is stop the Iranians from acquiring nuclear weapons. Which means Obama, intelligent fellow he is, will have to find a way to stop the Iranians without war, because otherwise Netanyahu will do it with war. You really should read Goldberg's article; it's far more serious than most journalism usually is.