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A Change in Tone and Substance

Benjamin Netanyahu and Donald Trump at the White House, February 15, 2016 (Photo: Avi Ohayon/GPO)

While the United States and Israel have long been each other's most fervent allies, yesterday's meeting between the two nations' leaders marked a new beginning. The Jerusalem Post's Herb Keinon writes of a different approach to the Middle East and a significant reset to the diplomatic process:

Eight years ago, when Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu met then-president Barack Obama in the Oval Office, this is what the new president had to say about the settlements: “Now Israel is going to have to take some difficult steps as well, and I shared with the prime minister the fact that, under the road map and under Annapolis, that there’s a clear understanding that we have to make progress on settlements. Settlements have to be stopped in order for us to move forward. That’s a difficult issue. I recognize that, but it’s an important one and it has to be addressed.”

And here is how new President Donald Trump addressed the very same issue before his first meeting with Netanyahu in the Oval Office: “As far as settlements, I’d like to see you hold back on settlements for a little bit, we’ll work something out. I would like to see a deal being made, I think a deal will be made.”

The message wasn’t that significantly different, but there was a great difference in how it was delivered.

And that is one of the three major takeaways from the Trump-Netanyahu press conference on Wednesday in the White House: There will be differences between the two men because they are leaders of different countries, whose interests do not always intersect, but the differences will be dealt with very differently – as among friends, not rivals.

Obama’s tone, his demeanor at his first meeting, was almost that of a teacher telling a pupil what he has to do. Trump’s tone was friendlier, lighter.

“Bibi and I have known each other a long time,” Trump said. “A smart man, a great negotiator, and I think we are going to make a deal. It might be a bigger and better deal than people in this room even understand.”

When Netanyahu responded with a curt “All right,” Trump joked that “doesn’t sound too optimistic,” and Netanyahu shot back in reference to a book Trump once wrote, “That’s the art of the deal.”

That jocular tone was significantly different from the heavy, tense tone of most of the Obama-Netanyahu meetings, even their first...

Tags: US-Israel Relations

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