A Strong Obama Is Good for Israel

Netanyahu faces Obama buoyed by healthcare victory, and knows Israel needs strong U.S. leadership.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will meet a U.S. president Tuesday who is full of vigor and satisfaction. Barack Obama managed, albeit partially, where many other capable people, including his secretary of state, failed completely. The passage of the health reform bill became a true test of the president's strength. It would not be an exaggeration to say that leaders around the world watched the vote in Congress, and while some feared for the future of the president, others hoped that he would stumble and fall.

There is no way to know how Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu responded to the news that Obama had won the vote in the House of Representatives. On the one hand, he knows that Israel needs strong American leadership. Netanyahu spent formative years in the U.S., and four years as prime minister have taught him that even if this president may not be his cup of tea, it is always in Israel's favor to have a strong president sitting in the White House.

Notwithstanding the disputes and the crises, the United States has remained Israel's security service. Even if the president is not the only player on the political field, the White House is, to a great extent, the cornerstone of the Jewish state.

In the stark, zero sum game between Israel and Iran and its agents in the region, if Jerusalem needs a strong American president, Iran needs a weak one. That is obvious. If Obama had lost in the vote in the House of Representatives, and were Mahmoud Ahmadinejad not a practicing Muslim, he would have had reason to raise a glass to the president's mishap. For many in the world, including the Arab world, when a leader loses a struggle against domestic political rivals, it is hard to trust him in wars against external enemies.

On the other hand, Netanyahu knows that he and Obama will engage in major bouts of arm wrestling. Of course, it is much easier to beat a president in arm wrestling when Congress limits his options.

Netanyahu has been careful lately with things he has said, but among the politicos surrounding him there were those who did not hide their hope that the American president should lose some of his prestige.

A defeat in the health reform would have tied Obama's hands and forced him to invest his best energies and efforts in rehabilitating his standing and preserving his party's majority in the House of Representatives.