Today’s summit meeting between Barack Obama and Benjamin Netanyahu promised a renewed focus on the Israeli-Palestinian peace effort, but a phone call last week changed the calculus. With the US talking about normalization of relations with Iran potentially by the end of the year, the Israeli Prime Minister promised his people a healthy dose of truth-telling in the White House:
President Barack Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu are meeting at a time that the three-decade estrangement between the United States and Iran may be nearing an end.
Obama and Netanyahu are set to meet Monday, and the White House said the two leaders would discuss negotiations with the Palestinians, developments in Syria and Iran.
The topic of Iran was likely to be one of the most contentious.
“I will tell the truth in the face of the sweet talk and the onslaught of smiles,” Netanyahu said before boarding his flight from Israel to the United States on Sunday. “Telling the truth today is vital for the security and peace of the world and, of course, it is vital for the security of the state of Israel.”
To underscore the threat of Iran, Israel announced the capture of a Belgian businessman, accused of being a spy for Iran. And not all of his interest was in Israeli targets, either:
Israeli security officials said Sunday that they have arrested a Belgian businessman of Iranian descent for spying on Israel and gathering intelligence on possible terrorism targets.
Israel’s Shin Bet domestic intelligence service released photographs that it said were taken from the suspect’s camera that included exterior shots of the U.S. Embassy in Tel Aviv.
The alleged spy was detained Sept. 11 as he was attempting to leave Israel through Ben Gurion International Airport. The announcement of the arrest comes two days before Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is scheduled to address the U.N.General Assembly, where he is expected to argue that Iran cannot be trusted and that stiff economic sanctions should remain in place until it agrees to curtail its nuclear program.
The suspect, Ali Mansouri, has an interesting history:
Israel said Mansouri was recruited by Iran’s Quds Force, a unit of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps charged with “extraterritorial operations” of assassination, insurgency and attacks, according to U.S. Defense Department officials. Its leadership answers directly to Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.
According to a dossier provided by Israel, Mansouri was born in Tehran in 1958, left in 1980, lived in Turkey until 1997, moved to Belgium, married a Belgian, became a Belgian citizen in 2006 and changed his name.
“During questioning, the suspect Ali Mansouri described entering Israel under a Belgian identity using the alias Alex Mans, and detailed his recruitment and activation process by Iranian intelligence elements,” according to Israel’s Shin Bet.
If Netanyahu wants to do some truth-telling, there’s no indication that Obama’s in the mood to listen. According to the Daily Caller’s Neil Munro, the White House is planning a lecture series featuring Joe Biden instead:
President Barack Obama’s first order of business at his Monday meeting with Israel’s prime minister is to prod him to establish at least one new Arab state alongside his tiny country. …
Obama is also pushing for a deal even though there’s still no sign of any Arab leader announcing an intention, or showing an ability, to defeat expected Arab opposition to any deal that recognizes’ Israel’s right to exist.
The White House’s pressure for Israeli concessions will be underlined by an afternoon speech from Vice President Joe Biden.
He’s expected to give a 2.45 p.m. speech at the annual conference of J Street, a progressive lobbying group that advocates for the creation of a new Arab state alongside Israel. “Support for a Palestinian state is a pro-Israel position, making the group both pro-Israel and pro-Palestinian,” says the group’s website.
I’m not sure Netanyahu will be proven correct … about the “onslaught of smiles.”