Once again, American Jews are being forced to pick sides in an unnecessary fight between President Barack Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Last month, it was over the breach of protocol surrounding Netanyahu’s speech to Congress and taking on a U.S. president over the Iran nuclear talks.
Now, following Netanyahu’s re-election, the prime minister’s stated opposition to a Palestinian state and his warning about “droves” of Arab citizens of Israel who were going to the polls — statements he later clarified, apologized for and recanted — the concern focuses on the president’s plan to “reassess” U.S.-Israel relations.
One gets the uncomfortable feeling that Netanyahu is being used as an excuse for a much larger and troubling agenda being played out by the White House. But because the dispute isn’t at all well explained and doesn’t appear to be strategic, we are left asking ourselves: What is this all about?
When it comes to the moribund Israeli-Palestinian peace process, everyone agrees that the environment is not right for a two-state solution. So for now, at least, there is room for movement on smaller issues, such as curbing the building of Israel settlements and sending tax receipts to the Palestinian Authority, both announced by the Israelis at the end of last week.
While such incremental moves are important, we find it hard to believe that Obama would threaten to change more than six decades of American foreign policy just to achieve those results. So, what is the end game?
Obama’s perceived weakness in dealings with Russia, China, Ukraine, Syria and elsewhere — coupled with growing concern that the president is more committed to getting an Iran nuclear deal done than in addressing the long-term consequences — make Obama’s hard talk about Israel appear to be designed to show that he can be tough. We hope not.
Two weeks ago, we counseled a cooling down of rhetoric. Last week, we urged Netanyahu to push the reset button in his dealings with Obama, Washington and American Jews. We now call upon our president to do both