Obama, Bibi: War & Peace
If Wednesday morning was unpleasant for Romney it was unpleasant for his former colleague too. Benjamin Netanyahu scrambled to repair his relationship with Washington after months of tense posturing over talks with Iran. The saber rattling rhetoric and real politik aimed to influence America's stance on Israel's nemesis proved fruitless for Bibi who is seeking his own reelection on January 22.
After receiving news of Obama's victory Bibi scheduled a meeting with US Israeli Ambassador Dan Shapiro to offer what New York Times reporter Jodi Rudoren described as a "ceremonial hug.” Netanyahu sought to reinforce his connection with Washington in statement released Wednesday morning: “The strategic alliance between Israel and the U.S. is stronger than ever.”
Relations between Israel and Washington reached a low point two months ago when Netanyahu seemed to undercut Obama for refusing to draw a “red line” marking where Iran’s nuclear capabilities would need to be stopped. Tensions mounted when Netanyahu snubbed Washington on Israeli television “if there is no way to stop Iran Israel is ready to act.” America has “no moral right” to prevent Israel from attacking Iran.
Some Israelis think Netanyahu jeopardized their collective security by backing the wrong guy for president. It was as if Bibi was ready to part oceans to see his philo-Semetic brethren in the oval office ready for a new conquest in the Middle East. But Bibi miscalculated and sitting in the oval office for four more years is the same president he ACME Bombed at the UN General Assembly meeting last month.
Iran’s refusal to halt nuclear proliferation will put the country at the top of Obama’s foreign policy agenda no doubt. Having complicated relations with Washington by exploiting election year politics for short term gain has undermined Netanyahu’s reputation at home. While polls indicate that Netanyahu faces slim chances of defeat next January opponents have still seized on the perception that Netanyahu mishandled Israel’s main ally at time when regional tensions are escalating.
The conciliatory messages coming from Israel, insincere as they may be, could presage a more cooperative Israel moving forward. Without the interference of election year politics and with a rising threat next door Israel is far more likely to make concessions with the United States in order to gain support against an uncompromising Iran. If Obama wants to advance the standstill Middle East peace process this term may be ripe with opportunity. For starters he won’t have to spend two years of this term clarifying for the public that he is not Muslim, is a US citizen and went to Harvard. Furthermore agreeing to support Israel if Washington felt that negotiations were doomed to fail and that Iran’s nuclear program needed to be stopped could come along with Washington making support contingent on Israeli willingness to quit settlement expansion. Israel’s failure to make such a concession could result in Obama making the bold moved to stand behind the Palestinians push for upgraded “non-member state” UN status. However such a bold move might make Obama’s Nobel Peace Prize worth something.
American presidents have an uncanny ability to put catastrophe before peace which is what Bibi was betting on by backing Romney. But Romney’s out and Obama has four years to choose how his foreign policy will be remembered. Will he go down as the kill list assassin with baby victims left in the debris or as the first American President to let the Palestinians write the peace treaty? These questions must have crossed Bibi’s mind on his unpleasant Wednesday morning. However since he’s capitulated Obama seems willing to let bygones be bygones: “There is nothing better to mend any scar or grudge from the past than making better achievements in the present and the future.”