Thomas Friedman
Photo: Reuters
Drawing a red line. Netanyahu
Photo: Reuters
Friedman: Obama too busy to take revenge on Netanyahu
NYT columnist writes that during president's second term, Israeli issues will be eschewed in favor of domestic matters

With President Barack Obama's reelection secure, pundits are free to speculate on how Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's reported interference with the American elections will impact the ties between the United States and Israel.


While CNN commentator David Gergen expects the relationship to suffer a blow, Thomas Friedman, a New York Times columnist, postulated that Obama will be so busy with pressing domestic issues that he won't have time to address Israeli matters.


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In an opinion peace published on Saturday, Friedman said the Israeli-Palestinian conflict will be laid aside in favor of the economy, and Israel will be left "home alone."

זמנים אחרים בבית הלבן (צילום: אבי אוחיון, לע"מ)

Obama with Netanyahu (Archive photo: GPO)


"Israeli friends have been asking me whether a re-elected President Obama will take revenge on Prime Minister Bibi Netanyahu for the way he and Sheldon Adelson, his foolhardy financier, openly backed Mitt Romney. My answer to Israelis is this: You should be so lucky.


"You should be so lucky that the president feels he has the time, energy and political capital to spend wrestling with Bibi to forge a peace between Israelis and Palestinians," he wrote. "I don’t see it anytime soon."


The shift won't be explicitly announced, Friedman said, and more official visits and road maps for peace between Israel and the Palestinians are to come; but no real progress will be made. The columnist further warned that an "unhealthy" situation will arise as result, a situation that could cost Israel its identity.


"The combination of America’s internal focus, the post-Arab awakening turmoil and the exhaustion of Palestinians means Israel can stay in the West Bank indefinitely at a very low short-term cost but at a very high long-term cost of losing its identity as a Jewish democracy," he said. "If Israelis want to escape that fate, it is very important that they understand that we’re not your grandfather’s America anymore."


Friedman's advice for Israel? "Focus on your own election — on Jan. 22 — not ours.

"מחויבות לדמוקרטיה יותר קרובה לזו של ולדימיר פוטין". ליברמן עם נתניהו (צילום: גיל יוחנן )

Thuggish partner? PM with Lieberman (Photo: Gil Yohanan) 


"I find it very sad that in a country with so much human talent, the Israeli center and left still can’t agree on a national figure who could run against Netanyahu and his thuggish partner, Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman — a man whose commitment to democracy is closer to Vladimir Putin’s than Thomas Jefferson’s," he said. "Don’t count on America to ride to the rescue. It has to start with you.


"My president is busy."


Impending crisis?

Gergen, meanwhile, expressed concern that “there is a serious possibility we could have a crisis in Israeli-US relations.”


Addressing the Jewish Federation's General Assembly in Baltimore on Sunday, he called for a new relationship between Washington and Jerusalem, and argued against drawing public "red lines" that push both countries into a corner.


The analyst, who served as a White House advisor to four US presidents Richard Nixon, Gerald Ford, Ronald Reagan and Bill Clinton, postulated that there is a 50% chance that a strike on Iran will be mounted in 2013, noting that the Islamic Republic's nuclear program is the most pressing issue that is to be faced by the second Obama administration next year.


Reports leading up to last week's presidential election claimed Netanyahu intervened on Republican candidate Mitt Romney's behalf, with officials in Israel warning that once he is reelected, Obama will "take vengeance" on the Israeli prime minister.


Netanyahu denied the charges, saying after Obama's victory was announced that the partnership between Israel and the US is strong and that he is committed to collaborating with the American president.




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