Jeffrey Goldberg writes a ridiculous article expressing indignation that Bibi Netanyahu used the word “expect” in connection with U.S. policy towards Israel, Dear Mr. Netanyahu, Please Don’t Speak to My President That Way:
For whatever reason, I tend to react strongly when a foreign leader disrespects the United States, and its President. I didn’t like it when Hugo Chavez of Venezuela insulted President Bush; I don’t like listening to Hamid Karzai of Afghanistan lecture the U.S. on its sins, and I’m not happy when certain Pakistani leaders gin-up righteous indignation about American behavior when it was their country that served as a refuge for the greatest mass murderer in American history.
And so I was similarly taken aback when I read a statement from Prime Minister Netanyahu yesterday that he “expects to hear a reaffirmation from President Obama of U.S. commitments made to Israel in 2004, which were overwhelmingly supported by both House of Congress.”
So Netanyahu “expects” to hear this from the President of the United States? And if President Obama doesn’t walk back the speech, what will Netanyahu do? Will he cut off Israeli military aid to the U.S.? Will he cease to fight for the U.S. in the United Nations, and in the many international forums that treat Israel as a pariah?
I don’t like this word, “expect.”
I’ve been tweeting about this nonsense all morning, and in response David Harsanyi pointed out that Goldberg’s reading was not correct, and “it seems to me he [Netanyahu] meant “expect” as in “likely to happen,” not as a demand.”
But what if Netanyahu did use the word “expect” as a demand. Is it so wrong for a foreign leader to “expect” that the U.S. will honor prior security assurances?
And particularly in this case, where those assurance were given as an inducement for Israel to leave Gaza (we know how that worked out), is it so outrageous for Israel to “expect” the U.S. to keep its word? I would expect nothing less from my president.
Goldberg implies that it is not patriotic — against “my president” — for supporters of Israel to abide by Netanyahu’s expectations. To the contrary, it is very patriotic for Americans to “expect” that “their president” will honor commitments made by prior presidents to allies.
Andrew Sullivan makes a good point in response to Goldberg’s article, that Obama may be trying to lure Nethanyahu into a self-destructive confrontation:
Don’t push your luck, Bibi. Others have with Obama and they have learned that he is often more canny than they are with political jujitsu. Obama’s usual tactic: gently and subtly prompting his foes to self-destruct. I just hope that in this critical juncture in the Middle East, Netanyahu doesn’t take his country with him.
If Goldberg’s hyper-reaction is any indication, Obama’s jujitsu may be working, at least on some supporters of Israel.
Update: John Guardiano at The American Spectator hearts Goldberg’s indignation:
That’s not a smart move on Bibi’s part, because disrespecting our president compels American Israeli supporters such as myself to rally to Obama’s side.
Why does an ally “expecting” us to keep our word demand that we rally to Obama’s side. I’m not seeing disrespect in an ally saying it expects us to keep our word; would it be better if our allies expected us not to keep our word? Would it be better if security assurances by an American president meant nothing?