I’m a conservative, a strong friend and supporter of Israel, and I like the Israeli prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu. But like The Atlantic’s Jeff Goldberg, I was taken aback by Bibi’s statement of disrespect for President Obama.
Netanyahu is upset at Obama for saying that “the borders of Israel and Palestine should be based on the 1967 lines with mutually agreed [land] swaps, so that secure and recognized borders are established for both states.”
Now, this has many friends and supporters of Israel up in (rhetorical) arms, because they say, Obama is imposing retro and untenable 1967 borders on Israel without asking anything in return of the Palestinians.
I understand this concern, but think it’s been overstated for partisan political reasons. In truth, as John Tabin has observed here at The American Spectator, Obama’s position is essentially the Israeli position.
Indeed, Obama, Tabin notes, has “explicitly rejected the Palestinian effort to seek U.N. recognition for a state on the ’67 borders, which is why many pro-Palestinian commentators are upset with him.”
Yet Netanyahu issued a statement yesterday articulating what he “expects” to hear from Obama during their meeting today.
Specifically, Netanyahu said he “expects to hear a reaffirmation from President Obama of U.S. commitments made to Israel in 2004 [when George W. Bush was president], which were overwhelmingly supported by both Houses of Congress.”
But when did U.S. allies get in the habit of issuing statements of expectation (demands really) upon American presidents? As Goldberg explains,
I don’t like this word, “expect.” Even if there weren’t an imbalance between these two countries — Israel depends on the U.S. for its survival, while America, I imagine, would continue to exist even if Israel ceased to exist — I would find myself feeling resentful about the way Netanyahu speaks about our President.
Netanyahu had an alternative, of course: He could have said, as he got on the plane to Washington, where today — awkward! — he will be meeting with President Obama:
“The President today delivered a very fine speech. His condemnation of Hamas and Iran, his question about whether the Palestinians actually seek peace; his strong language against Syria; his recognition of Israel as a Jewish state; his re-assertion of the unshakeable bond between our two nations — all of this and more brought joy to my heart.
“There are a couple of points in the speech, having to do with borders and refugees, that I would like to clarify with the President when I see him, and I’m looking forward to a constructive dialogue on these few issues.”
Of course, Goldberg continues, Netanyahu didn’t say this. Instead, he attempted to dictate to Obama what Obama should say and do.
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.
It’s obvious that Netanyahu and Obama don’t like each other. Their hostility dates back to Obama’s early days in office when Obama called on Netanyahu to halt Israeli settlements in the West Bank and Netanyahu refused.
Both men have legitimate concerns. However, Netanyahu does himself and Israel no favors when he publicly disrespects our president.