White House sources to Yediot: Answers by Monday or no meeting with Obama at nuclear parley
Netanyahu is not on Obama’s schedule
Orly Azulai, Yediot, April 7 2010 [page 11; scan of Hebrew original here]
During the nuclear conference opening in Washington next week, Pres. Obama is going to find time to meet privately with some of the attending leaders. Netanyahu, as of now, is not one of them.
The White House spokesman issued in his daily briefing yesterday the list of leaders with whom Obama is going to meet during the conference. In response to a question, Gibbs said Obama did not have a meeting with Netanyahu and added: “I do not know if he is coming. I know that Israel is attending the conference. In any case, the president has recently met Sarkozi, Medvedev and Netanyahu, and therefore he is not going to meet them during the conference.”
Obama’s meeting schedule includes the leaders of nine countries: Jordan, Armenia, Kazakhstan, China, Germany, India, Malaysia, Pakistan and South Africa.
A senior official in Washington said in a private conversation that the White House has been closely following the contacts between administration officials and Netanyahu’s people and reached the conclusion that the Israeli prime minister does not yet have answers to Obama’s demands regarding negotiations with the Palestinians, and since the two leaders met only two weeks ago there is no reason for another meeting between them.
The White House expects Netanyahu to provide his answers to President Obama’s demands before the nuclear conference opens in Washington next Monday. There have been constant talks between Obama’s and Netanyahu’s people over the past few days, and the special envoy George Mitchell has prepared to leave for the Middle East and meet Netanyahu to receive his answers before the conference. Mitchell has not yet scheduled his visit to Jerusalem because he and his people think there is no reason to have a meeting as long as Netanyahu does not have the answers. If Netanyahu does not have written answers by the time the meeting convenes, the two leaders will not meet.
However, political sources in Washington said that if Netanyahu comes to the conference with clear answers that satisfy the administration, Obama may meet him. But the White House says officially at this stage that no meeting has been scheduled between the two.
Not having a meeting with Netanyahu is undoubtedly a means to put pressure on Netanyahu. In the past, when Israeli prime ministers attended international conferences hosted by American presidents, the two leaders met privately, especially when momentous bilateral issues were on the agenda.
It is not clear how long President Obama will be willing to wait for Netanyahu’s answers. King Abdallah of Jordan, who is going to meet Obama in Washington next week, announced he was going to pressure the US president to present his plan for a peace agreement between Israel and the Palestinians. For the meantime the Americans have refrained from presenting their plan, but they may do so if they conclude that Netanyahu is wasting time and does not intend to convey his answers. The White House knows that Netanyahu and his people are afraid of an American plan, because it would be based largely on the Saudi peace initiative. At this point the Americans are willing to wait for Netanyahu’s answer, but stressed that “we will not wait forever. We are talking about days and weeks, not months,” as a senior administration official told Yedioth.