The Obama-Netanyahu summit was expected to turn into a mutual charm offensive. And it didn't disappoint on that score. At the start of his remarks to the press, Obama gushed that he and Bibi had an "excellent discussion" and emphasized their "extraordinary friendship."
What was surprising were the sharp words Obama aimed at Mahmoud Abbas. Until now, Obama has been cautious to the point of reticence in taking Abbas to task -- mentioning only that the Palestinian leader had to do more to end anti-Israel incitement and to prevent terrorist attacks. But this time, Obama took the gloves off.
"It is very important that Palestinians not look for excuses for incitement, that they're not engaging in provocative language, that at the international level they are maintaining a constructive tone, as opposed to looking for opportunities to embarrass Israel," Obama declared.
That's not going to go down well in Ramallah and put a greater squeeze on Abbas to finally crack down on vile anti-Semitic and anti-Israel incitement in Palestinian media and mosques under his control. Obama's mention of Palestinian anti-Israel incitement on the international level was a direct rebuke to Abbas's failed campaign to prevent Israel's accession to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, a prestigious club of the world's economic and financial heavyweights.
As for his discussions with Bibi, Obama touched on the most serious recent disagreement between the two sides -- U.S. acceptance of a resolution at the recent Nuclear Non-Proliferation conference that singled out Israel in demanding that it open its nuclear facilities to international inspections. Israel had counted on Obama to prevent such a move, but at the last minute the White House bowed to Arab threats to derail the entire conference if Obama didn't accept the offensive anti-Israel language. Israel -- and the U.S. for that matter -- have always adopted a policy of ambiguity -- "don't ask, don't tell" whether Israel has nuclear weapons. Israel's nuclear capabilities represent its last-resort deterrent against future existential attacks by the likes of Iran, which is racing to develop to develop its own nuclear arsenal.
So, Obama felt it advisable that, in regard to this touchy issue, he now recognizes that Israel has "unique security requirements" and he would "never ask Israel to undermine its security." To underscore the point, Obama said there has been "no change in U.S. policy" in terms of Israel maintaining its policy of ambiguity on nukes and that "Israel has got to be able to respond to threats or any combination of threats in the region."
On other issues, Obama praised Israel's liberalization of the Gaza blockade, declaring that movement of more goods into Gaza has taken place "more quickly and more effectively" than might have been expected.
As for his personal relations with Bibi, the president said he's convinced that Netanyahu is "prepared to take risks for peace" agrees with him that the two sides should move to direct negotiations, complimented Bibi on showing restraint on settlement construction, and told reporters that he has trusted Netanyahu since "I met him before I was elected president."
In turn, Netanyahu thanked Obama for going beyond a UN Security Council resolution in imposing more stringent sanctions on Iran.
The prime minister ended by inviting the president and First Lady to visit Israel and got a positive response. "We look forward to it," said Obama.