Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will meet with President Barack Obama at the White House today in a bilateral summit designed to "reset" relations between the two countries. Israel and the U.S. have clashed several times during Obama's administration over U.S. calls for a settlement freeze, Israel's continuing settlement growth in Palestinian territories, and most recently Israel's disastrous raid on a Gaza-bound flotilla of activists and aid. Bending to U.S. pressure, Israel recently announced it would "liberalize" its Gaza blockade, but details are still emerging. Can the two historically tight-knit nations move past recent troubles today? Here's what they face.
- Resolving Israel-Palestine Stumbling Block The New York Times' Isabel Kershner writes, "After a rocky few months in Israeli-American relations, officials on both sides seemed eager to move to a smoother footing and show progress in the Israeli-Palestinian peace process, in which the Obama administration has invested heavily. ... Palestinians say little has been achieved so far, and they have tried to dispel any inflated notions of progress. 'What I see is all public relations,' Saeb Erekat, the chief Palestinian negotiator, said Monday by telephone. He said that Mr. Netanyahu held the key to beginning direct talks, which would involve an Israeli commitment to resume negotiations from the point at which they ended in December 2008 and a freeze of all Israeli settlement construction, including in East Jerusalem. The Netanyahu government rejects those demands."
- Turkey in the Middle ABC News' Simon McGregor-Wood writes, "The continuing deterioration in relations between Israel and Turkey is becoming a pressing problem. Following May's fatal Israeli raid against a flotilla of Turkish ships bound for Gaza in which Israeli commandos killed nine activists, Turkey is threatening to shut down diplomatic relations with the Jewish state. The slide in relations between the U.S.'s two closest regional partners is a serious matter."
- Tension Over Israeli Nukes ABC News' Simon McGregor-Wood explains, "There is also bad feeling over the recently signed Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty. Backed by Washington, the new draft appears to single out Israel's long-held policy of nuclear ambiguity for special scrutiny. Israeli officials are unhappy the U.S. signed the treaty, and had hoped the U.S. would work to remove the offending paragraph."
- Israel Should Work Towards Palestinian State A Ha'aretz editorial urges, "Having declared that the creation of a Palestinian state is a foremost Israeli interest, Netanyahu is now obligated to seize any opportunity to reach that goal. The prime minister must not squander the occasion presented by his meeting with Obama by haggling over a settlement freeze; he must present objectives that are both courageous and realistic."
- U.S. Will Ultimately Support Israel The Jerusalem Post's Ari Harow declares, "there is no overestimating the importance of the next several days. ... all Israelis should realize one basic truth – when we stands firm and clearly articulate our vital security needs and interests, the American people have proven time and again that they will be here at our side. ... Despite any differing viewpoints even on these most fundamental of issues, perhaps the one constant which has always defined the American-Israeli relationship has been that of shared values."
- Netanyahu to Give Obama Three Options Al Jazeera's Gregg Carlstrom writes, "Ma'ariv reporting that Netanyahu will offer Obama three options for resuming direct Israeli-Palestinian peace talks. One is restarting talks "where they last ended"; another is agreeing to work on a deal within 1967 borders, with land swaps. And the third is extending the settlement freeze and seeing where things lead. The framing of the second option, 1967 borders, seems purposefully vague. It would be starting point; Israel will want significant swaps."