Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Chilly reception for Netanyahu

Laura Rozen and Ben Smith offer notable reportage on the Netanyahu visit to Washington. (Compare to the Kessler piece in WaPo.)

Let's be clear-headed about the Israeli Prime Minister. His game, as I have noted here before, is to outlast Obama. He is not a peacemaker, and he never really has been. It is illusory to imagine that he can be a partner for peace. Much has been made of his opportunism and his so-called "pragmatism", but he operates within an ideological vector that rejects a two-state solution that will satisfy the Palestinians.

His visit to Capitol Hill is trademark behavior, namely in terms of his effort to buttress his obstructionist position with kneejerk Congressional support. Thankfully, particularly among Democrats, there is considerable skepticism about Netanyahu's bona fides as a peacemaker.

President Obama and his administration has extended a notably chilly reception to the Israeli leader. There will be political pressure on the President to embrace Netanyahu, but it will be a big mistake if Obama succumbs. The U.S. has ample means at its disposal to subtly but clearly express its continuing disapproval of Israel's illegal construction in East Jerusalem and the West Bank. Informed Israelis, who are acutely aware of the importance of the US-Israeli relationship, will get the point.

Notwithstanding Netanyahu's embrace by some congresspeople, one of the promising developments since the Biden slap has been evidence of growing unease in Israel about Netanyahu's leadership [see Aluf Benn's essay]. A wise U.S. President will not do anything to reduce the doubts.

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