Only a reckless, arrogant prime minister would get into a head-to-head battle with the president of the United States, leader of a world super power and Israel’s best friend.
Benjamin Netanyahu did it, despite all the warnings. He figured he’d be able to defeat Barack Obama on his home court and foil the agreement that world powers reached with Iran to suspend the latter’s nuclear program for at least a decade. Netanyahu erred in calculating the power relations in Congress. He believed that rich Jewish-American big shots were powerful enough to persuade the senators and their friends in the House of Representatives to prefer his arguments to their own national interest, as presented by their authorized leadership. In so doing, he again raised the issue of American Jewish double loyalty and aligned himself with one side, the Republican, in internal American politics,
Obama did not surrender to Netanyahu’s onslaught, which broke every rule in diplomatic protocol. The president played his hand well and achieved a blocking majority. The rapprochement in the relations between Washington and Tehran, as in Iran’s relations with other Western states, is a fait accompli. The Vienna agreement will strengthen the moderate faction in the Iranian regime — an important development toward the end of Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei’s term.
The U.S. Administration is sophisticated enough to distinguish between Netanyahu and Israel. Obama took pains to say that the American commitment to Israel’s security would not be impaired. The administration offered even closer intelligence and military ties, to counter-balance the Iranian threat in non-nuclear fields, and tighter surveillance of possible violations of the agreement. Netanyahu has so far prevented the IDF and intelligence community from discussing these proposals with the Pentagon.
It’s time Netanyahu and his government stop the obstinate struggle. The personal scars won’t heal until Obama leaves the White House in January 2017, but Israel must be pragmatic and take stock of its needs and opportunities. Due to the embarrassing make-up of Israel’s cabinet — Netanyahu is also foreign minister; the defense minister insulted Kerry — a delegation of senior officials and officers will have to be sent to Washington for summation and rehabilitation talks.
Netanyahu’s declaration of war on Obama was a bad thing. It’s a good thing he lost. A supervised implementation of the Vienna deal will be good for Israel. A rupture with the president, the American public and U.S. Jewry is more dangerous to Israel than the Iranian threat.
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