Photo: AP
Netanyahu is not destroying US-Israel relations because they cannot be destroyed
Photo: AP
Photo: Michael Kramer
Alon Pinkas
Photo: Michael Kramer

Why is Netanyahu treating Obama so badly?

Op-ed: While US president hasn't expressed his love for Israel publicly, his military-security and diplomatic aid to Israel has been impeccable; yet for six years, Israel's prime minister has failed to develop a relationship of trust with him.

It's reasonable to assume that the term "chickenshit," which was hurled at Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu several months ago at the White House, is one of the gentle, moderate and considerate terms currently raised by the mention of his name and visit to Washington.



Ungrateful, irresponsible, working in the Republicans' service and performing tasks and missions for their big donors, forcibly and blatantly bringing Israel into the American political arena, oddly and dangerously "Israelizing" the Iranian issue, righteously talking about his "moral obligation to speak out against the agreement with Iran," while his goal is the elections in Israel and an attempt to influence the 2016 US presidential election – that's what people in Washington have been thinking about the Israeli prime minister in the past few days. Not about Israel, about the Israeli prime minister. Not about the US-Israel relations, but about the Israeli prime minister.


More than anything, US President Barack Obama can't understand Netanyahu's rude behavior. Granted, Obama isn’t expressing his love for Israel publicly, as the Israelis have gotten accustomed to from former presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush, but under any test and measure of material, military-security and diplomatic aid – Obama's list of donations is impeccable.


And what has Obama got in return? Cries and wails that he is "throwing Israel under the wheels of the bus," a patronizing lecture in front of the cameras at the White House about the history of the Jewish people, public sympathy for his 2012 presidential rival, Mitt Romney, as well as abuse, swearing and insults hurled at his secretary of state, John Kerry. And then came "the speech."


Netanyahu and Obama. What does the prime minister think he is achieving here that he couldn't achieve in a different, less oppositional and less arrogant manner? (Photo: Amos Ben Gershom, GPO)
Netanyahu and Obama. What does the prime minister think he is achieving here that he couldn't achieve in a different, less oppositional and less arrogant manner? (Photo: Amos Ben Gershom, GPO)


On both sides of the dispute over the benefit, importance, timing and ramifications of the prime minister's speech, there is a wild exaggeration mixed with quite a lot of hysteria. Those who support the speech explain that it's the last chance, that Netanyahu must cry out for something in return ahead of an Iranian calamity, that it's a bad agreement which must be thwarted in advance.


None of these arguments stand the test of reality. For six years, Netanyahu has failed to develop a relationship of trust and reliable and quiet communication channels with the US president. His criticism – which is legitimate – is perceived as covering up lack of success. The speech's target – the Congress – is not the right place. The form of the invitation and the strong partisan scent raise questions as to the sincerity of his intentions.


On the other side we have the cries of despair among those who oppose the speech: Netanyahu is destroying Israel-US relations, an exceptionally strong American "punishment" will follow, he is disconnecting Israel from its real power base, which is the Democratic Party, he is dividing the US Jewry in a rift which cannot be mended, and by doing all that he is abandoning Israel's security.


He is not destroying, because the relations cannot be destroyed, definitely not because of one speech. The US will not punish an ally, the Nimitz aircraft carrier will not bomb Haifa on Wednesday, and Israel's security is not being abandoned.


Nonetheless, Obama is allowed to ask a simple question: Seriously, Mr. Netanyahu, what do you really think you are achieving here that you couldn't achieve in a different, less confrontational and less arrogant manner?


Alon Pinkas served as Israel's consul-general in New York


פרסום ראשון: 03.03.15, 22:42
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