President Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu had their long awaited meeting at the White House today. We don’t know what they said to each other, and it’s difficult to draw conclusions from what transpired at their joint press conference. Clearly, though, Obama was attempting to “make nice,” at least compared to the disgraceful way he treated Netanyahu during his last visit. As Noah Pollak concludes:
Obama[‘s] hostility toward Israel over the past year and a half earned him nothing and alienated many of his Jewish and pro-Israel supporters. Obviously Obama would like this entire issue to move to the back burner in the run-up to the mid-terms.
The problem, I think, is that Israel and especially Netanyahu stick in Obama’s craw. He understands intellectually that his political interests are best served by not exerting increased pressure on Israel to make further concessions to the Palestinians, and not treating Netanyahu dismissively, but it’s difficult for him to resist
The latest flap has been Obama’s second round with Netanyahu. Round One went to Obama, albeit narrowly. The administration, through Secretary Clinton, demanded a total building freeze, Netanyahu stood his ground on the building issue, but gave a speech in which he talked about a Palestinian state. Obama swallowed hard and expressed satisfaction with the speech.
But Obama was never going to leave matters there. When Israel mistimed its announcement about building in East Jerusalem so that it coincided with Vice President Biden’s visit, Obama saw the opportunity for a “re-match.”
Obama does not appear to have fared much better this time around, though, as i said, we don’t know what happened at the latest meeting. But for me, the lesson of the past year-and-a-half is that Obama is itching for another go at Netanyahu.
Undoubtedly, he’d like to postpone Round Three until after the midterms. But depending on events on the ground, he may find himself unable to restrain himself until then. Obama is easily outraged by Israel and Netanyahu. That tends to be the case with nations and people one doesn’t like.
Meanwhile, the best thing about this meeting may be that there probably won’t be another one for a while.