President Barack Obama has refused to allow any cameras or other press coverage of his meeting this afternoon with the Israeli Prime Minister Bibi Netanyahu; yet, President Obama executed a very public and submissive bow to the Saudi King when they met at the G-20 summit in April of last year in London. No press at all for the Barack-Bibi White House meeting today:
The meeting between President Barack Obama and Israeli’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is closed press. They will meet behind the doors and away from reporters and cameras. There will be no public statements.
The White House may release a still photo or two of Obama arguing with Netanyahu, as many expect Obama to harshly condemn Netanyahu in the meeting today, continuing an ongoing theme of Obama Administration condemnation of Israeli construction as begun by VP Biden and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton:
President Obama is meeting with Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu late this afternoon, but don’t expect to see smiling pictures of the two leaders.
For one thing, the meeting is closed press. For another, Israel’s decision to build new housing in east Jerusalem drew strong protests from the Palestinians and the Obama administration.
Israel announced the new construction two weeks ago, at a time when Vice President Joe Biden was in the country to try and jump-start new talks with the Palestinians. Biden immediately condemned the decision; days later, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton called Nethanyahu to criticize the decision.
Now, presumably, it’s Obama’s turn — though Netanyahu has shown no signs of backing down.
The sharp turn in American foreign policy towards Israel from the Bush years of close cooperation and friendship to the Obama Administration’s increasingly hostile tone is a curious development considering that Israel is one of America’s closest long term allies, backing the United States in both Iraq wars, and that “for the first time since 1991, more than 6 in 10 Americans — 63% — say their sympathies in the Middle East situation lie more with the Israelis than with the Palestinians.Israel is strongly backed by the American public.” Furthermore, Israel is the most established, functional democracy in the entirety of the Middle East, joined only by the shaky Lebanon and the newly democratic Iraq, which of course would now be three separate (and likely non-democratic) countries if the recommendations of the present Vice President were followed.
Considering the history of the U.S. relationship with Israel, and Israel’s status as “one of the world’s most vibrant democracies“, Obama’s decision to refuse to appear publicly with Israel’s duly elected leader is a curious choice, especially when paired with Obama’s public outpouring of submissive respect for Saudi King Abdullah with his deep bow in April 2009 as pictured above. Saudi Arabia, of course, is a dictatorship run by a series of tribal leaders such as King Abdullah and is a country where women have few, if any rights and the Saudi people have no say in their political leadership.
Obama’s public bow to the Saudi King was followed by the public Obama embrace of Venezuelan strongman Hugo Chavez, who incidentally has recently had yet another political opponent, former Presidential candidate Oswaldo Alvarez Paz, arrested for “conspiracy”. Obama’s public embrace of dictatorial leaders like Chavez and Abdullah is a trend which is unwelcome for many in America, including centrists and independents, as well as many ideologues from both sides.
Despite King Abdullah’s status as an absolute dictator and Prime Minister Netanyahu’s status as a democratically elected leader, Obama has now chosen to refuse to allow the press to photograph and film his meeting with Netanyahu while allowing both video and pictoral evidence of his submissive deep bow to King Abdullah to be blasted around all corners of the Earth. Centrists and independents deserve some sort of explanation from the Obama Administration for this divergence in treatment of the two Middle Eastern leaders, especially considering the free, democratic status of the Nation of Israel and the closed, dictatorial status of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. One can only hope that President Obama reverses his Administration’s increasingly negative relationship with American ally Israel to “resolve the worst breakdown in relations in decades between America and its closest regional ally, Israel“.
UPDATE: NBC tweeted an update just now, noting that the Israeli PM left the White House just now with zero press of any kind:
Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu departs White House after meeting President Obama, with no word on progress, no photo op, no press access
Politico notes that the meeting lasted about 90 minutes:
President Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu met from 5:34 pm to 7:03 pm in the Oval Office, said White House spokesman Tommy Vietor in an email. There was no photo op. Nor was there a chance to ask the two leaders questions.