You don’t need to be an expert in Israeli politics to understand that Israeli voters don’t like it when their leaders fight with an American president.
That’s nothing new, and it’s not new in the age of Obama.
That’s the context in which you need to understand Obama making it known, on the eve of the Israeli election, that he intends to continue the contentious relationship with Bibi Netanyahu.
The message was delivered via Jeffrey Goldberg, Obama: ‘Israel Doesn’t Know What Its Own Best Interests Are’. There’s so much wrong in Goldberg’s narrative it’s hard to know where to begin, but note the message is one of Israel as the problem, Obama as the victim, and future loss of American support including in the U.N. as the remedy:
Shortly after the United Nations General Assembly voted in late November to upgrade the status of the Palestinians, the government of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced that it would advance plans to establish a settlement in an area of the West Bank known as E-1, and that it would build 3,000 additional housing units in east Jerusalem and the West Bank….
When informed about the Israeli decision, Obama, who has a famously contentious relationship with the prime minister, didn’t even bother getting angry. He told several people that this sort of behavior on Netanyahu’s part is what he has come to expect, and he suggested that he has become inured to what he sees as self-defeating policies of his Israeli counterpart.
In the weeks after the UN vote, Obama said privately and repeatedly, “Israel doesn’t know what its own best interests are.” With each new settlement announcement, in Obama’s view, Netanyahu is moving his country down a path toward near-total isolation….
And if Israel, a small state in an inhospitable region, becomes more of a pariah — one that alienates even the affections of the U.S., its last steadfast friend — it won’t survive. Iran poses a short-term threat to Israel’s survival; Israel’s own behavior poses a long-term one.
The dysfunctional relationship between Netanyahu and Obama is poised to enter a new phase. Next week, Israeli voters will probably return Netanyahu to power, this time at the head of a coalition even more intractably right-wing than the one he currently leads….
But it is in terms of American diplomatic protection — among the Europeans and especially at the UN — that Israel may one day soon notice a significant shift.
Arguing that the “E-1” issue is a canard is besides the point. Going on about non-stop anti-Semitic incitement (including by the new Muslim Brotherhood President of Egypt) and the likelihood of Iran turning the West Bank into Gaza all falls on deaf ears.
Israel is the problem in the eyes of the Obama administration, the United Nations, and much of the media. That message of Israel as the primary problem is carried forward even by pro-Israel writers such as Goldberg.
In the face of a near-global desire to see Israel eliminated, a rise of Islamism all around it, and an intractable hater of the Jews as President of Egypt (Roger Cohen must be so proud), Israel wanting to build in tiny areas meant to secure its future is deemed the main impediment to a “just and lasting peace.” The latest Morsi statement revealed:
“Dear brothers, we must not forget to nurse our children and grandchildren on hatred towards those Zionists and Jews, and all those who support them. They must be nursed on hatred. The hatred must continue.”
Obama’s problem with Israel is that Israel doesn’t accept a return to the indefensible pre-1967 borders. Obama signaled that policy difference long ago, and it is part of the solution he seeks to impose on Israel, as David Horovitz of the Times of Israel points out:
Broadly speaking, Obama’s course is set. He has nobody and nothing but his own worldview to answer to. And he reckons it has served him pretty well thus far. This week’s suggestions that Obama is convinced he understands far better than Netanyahu where Israel’s interests lie are nothing new; he has always been convinced he understands far better than Netanyahu where Israel’s interests lie — and that few of them are to be found beyond the pre-1967 lines.
The truth is It’s never been about the 1967 borders.
View Goldberg’s “scoop” in the context of Obama sending a message to Israeli voters. The nomination of Chuck Hagel was another message to Israel.
Whether there is a cause and effect is hard to say, but Netanyahu’s coalition is slipping in the latest polling:
Polls released Friday, the last date permitted by election law for publishing pre-election surveys, give the right wing-Orthodox bloc just 63 seats, the narrowest lead it’s held throughout the entire campaign season.
According to both Yedioth Ahronoth and Haaretz, the joint Likud-Beytenu list is predicted to win 32 seats, 10 fewer than the two parties hold in the current Knesset and the lowest the list has polled since announcing the union in October.
Given the stretch by which writers such as Goldberg suggest that Netanyahu interfered in the U.S. election, I wonder if Obama will be called out in kind.