In the diplomatic world, one year can be a fairly long time. With close friends and allies it’s nearly an eternity and that’s how long it’s been since Benjamin Netanyahu and Barack Obama last met. Which surprises no one. The best that can be said about their relationship is that it’s characterized by a mutual and cordial dislike. Neither trusts the other very much.
Likewise, the Israeli prime minister and the U.S. president are also at political cross purposes. That’s especially apparent in the matter of the nuclear agreement between the U.S. and Iran. Netanyahu considers the agreement a historic mistake and believes Tehran will continue pursuing nuclear weapons, thus becoming even more of a threat to Israel. Obama, on the other hand, considers the agreement his greatest foreign policy legacy. As a result, in the White House, Netanyahu’s stubborn opposition to the deal was seen as an affront to Obama.
Fears for the Alliance
But now Jerusalem and Washington seem ready to end their spat and begin looking once again to the future. That doesn’t mean that everything is forgiven and forgotten. That would be asking too much of everyone after such a serious and public disagreement. But things are to return to normal on the business level, and Obama and Netanyahu would be well advised to also take this opportunity to restart their personal relationship.
That especially goes for the head of the Israeli government. He has openly duped America’s leader so often that many Israelis feared Israeli-U.S. relations were being endangered. Just recently, Netanyahu appointed Ron Baratz as his media adviser. Baratz had previously reviled the U.S. president as being “anti-Semitic” and said that “Secretary of State John Kerry had the mental abilities of a 12-year-old.”
Signs of relaxation from Jerusalem are therefore long overdue. A clear, unequivocal acceptance of the two-state solution in the conflict with the Palestinians would be as helpful as a freeze on all settlement construction projects in the occupied territories. These are the kind of willingness-to-compromise gestures expected not only by Obama but are also very likely to be demanded by his successor in the White House — whether male or female.
Money for Your Trouble
Hillary Clinton may take a more conciliatory tone as president but she’s hardly likely to abandon the present course entirely. A Palestinian homeland is wanted by a majority of people in a demographically changing dynamic America — young, diverse and liberal. Those who support the present Israeli policies are becoming fewer and fewer. These are realities that a Republican president would have to accept as well.
But Netanyahu won’t be the only one under the gun: Obama also must prove that he values America’s relationship with Israel, precisely because of his Iranian nuclear deal. A long-term financial spike in military aid to Israel would be a good first step. Even if money isn’t everything, it can go a long way toward soothing ruffled tempers. And as the basis for political male bonding, even billions aren’t all that much. Especially if the males are Mr. Netanyahu and Mr. Obama.