Behind Obama’s faux outrage at Netanyahu

David Bernstein highlights the astonishing dishonesty behind President Obama’s latest case of “faux outrage” at Benjamin Netanyahu. The premise for Obama’s outrage is Netanyahu’s statement just before the election that, given regional instability and the PA’s collaboration with Hamas, there will be no Palestinian state under his watch.

Netanyahu has since softened this position a bit. But Team Obama harumphs that it doesn’t believe the softened version and that election rhetoric has consequences.

Bernstein shows, however, that Obama knows the election rhetoric in question was a response to his own anti-Netanyahu electioneering — specifically to attempts by the president to alienate Netanyahu from his right-wing supporters:

On March 6, less than two weeks before the election, a major Israeli newspaper published a document showing that Netanyahu’s envoy had agreed on his behalf to an American-proposed framework that offered substantial Israeli concessions that Netanyahu publicly opposed. Let’s put on our thinking caps. Where would this leak have come from? The most logical suspect is the American State Department.

So here’s the dynamic: Netanyahu, while talking tough publicly about terms for an Israeli-Palestinian deal, was much more accommodating privately during actual negotiations. Just before Israeli elections, the U.S. government likely leaks evidence of his flexibility to harm Netanyahu. As a result, Netanyahu starts to lose right-wing voters to smaller parties, and the left-leaning major opposition party takes a lead in the polls, putting Netanyahu’s leadership in question, just as the U.S. wanted.

Netanyahu responds by using increasingly right-wing rhetoric (including denying that he ever agreed to the framework in question), to win back the voters from smaller parties that the leak cost him. He wins, and almost immediately announces that his campaign rhetoric was misunderstood, and that he still supports a two-state solution when conditions allow. The Obama Administration then announces it nevertheless has to reassess relations with Israel, allegedly because Netanayahu is no longer committed to the two-state solution.

In sum, Obama knows that Netanyahu has shown flexibility with the Palestinians during negotiations; tries to use this flexibility against Netanyahu in the election; and now uses Netanyahu’s defense against Obama’s gambit as the basis for attacking the Israeli prime minister in the election’s aftermath. Netanyahu responds that he is, in fact, amenable to negotiating flexibly. Team Obama, having almost surely leaked evidence of Netanyahu’s flexibility, pretends not to believe that Netanyahu is flexible.

In a way, you have to admire the deep cynicism of Obama’s game. If only he played anything approaching this level of hardball with Iran and Russia. Unfortunately, Iran and Russia aren’t his enemies.

What is the purpose of Obama’s dishonest attack on Netanyahu? Ideally, he’d like to pressure Netanyahu into making more concessions to the Palestinians than he previously has. There’s a long pattern of manufacturing outrage at Netanyahu for this purpose.

But Obama probably understands that there isn’t going to be a peace agreement during the relatively short remainder of his administration and that, thereafter, all bets are off. Thus, Obama’s conniving conduct probably has an additional purpose.

Might that purpose be to alienate Israel from America, including American Jews? I suspect so.

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