Barack Obama’s visit to Saudi Arabia this week was made at the request of Benjamin Netanyahu during a meeting last month with Hillary Clinton, according to David Makovsky, Director of the Project on the Middle East Peace Process at the Washington Institute.
Speaking on a conference call with New York Jewish leaders organized by the Jewish Community Relations Council, Makovsky revealed what he called the “scoop” that “the trip to Saudi Arabia by the president was actually done, it seems, at Israel’s request. At the dinner of Hillary Clinton and Netanyahu, when they were talking about what could the Arabs put on the table, without just Israel doing the giving, Netanyahu raised certain ideas. One of them was a trade-off and other things that the Saudis should be able to do, and I think Hillary’s response was, ‘Only the president can do this.’”
Makovsky, who has written a new book with ambassador Dennis Ross (the Obama administration’s envoy to Iran), also said that during Obama’s unexpected drop-by during Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak’s meeting with national security adviser Jim Jones in Washington, “both signaled a willingness to de-escalate and not get into a fixed collision.”
Barak had come to press the Israeli case for natural growth expansion in settlements. But Obama’s clear opposition to settlements in the Cairo speech made it clear that his administration considers the freezing of all settlements to be essential to the restarting of a peace process and a shifting of the terms of debate about Israel in the United States.