Much has been made about an Obama/Netanyahu rift. At times, it's hard separating rhetoric from reality. Nonetheless, neither leader, it appears, particularly likes the other. Disagreement between them is palpable. It's over Iranian red lines and deadlines.
Former IDF Chief of Staff Dan Halutz said he doesn't believe in "red line policies." He responded to Netanyahu saying:
"The world tells Israel 'wait, there's still time.' And I say, 'Wait for what? Wait until when?' Those in the international community who refuse to put red lines before Iran don't have a moral right to place a red light before Israel."
"Now if Iran knows that there is no red line. If Iran knows that there is no deadline, what will it do? Exactly what it's doing. It's continuing, without any interference, towards obtaining nuclear weapons capability and from there, nuclear bombs."
A previous article called Netanyahu the mouth that roars for good reason. He repeatedly puts both feet in his mouth and risks swallowing them.
He's arrogant, offensive, duplicitous, thuggish, and dangerous. He's an embarrassment to legitimate governance. It's hard imagining why any Israelis put up with him. If ever a bum deserved to be thrown out it's Netanyahu.
One Israeli analyst said he "must set red lines on his malice toward Obama." Israelis and many others are fed up with his bluster. He's gone out of his way to alienate support from his closest ally. An unnamed Israeli official said he caused "profound" damage in relations with Washington.
Haaretz contributor Yoel Marcus accused him of "acting wildly irresponsibly." He overstepped "traditional boundaries." He crossed a proper comportment red line.
He's interfering in America's election. He's making a serious mistake. Marcus cited a Bulgarian proverb, saying:
"When God wants to punish someone, the first thing He does is take away his brains."
Doron Rosenblum questions the future of "Bibi-ism." It's a "state of mind." It "dictates the tone of Israel." It does so by a leader "who concentrates more and more authority in his hands," wields it like an autocrat, "while nurturing a media personality cult."
Bibi-ism's bottom line is what he says goes. Opposition isn't tolerated. His mouth disengages from his senses and sensibility. He's combative and overbearing. Observers call him pompous, domineering, and insufferable.
He engages in the "politics of permanent" confrontation. He never misses a chance for a good fight. He avoids "reconciliation and cooperation."
Obama and some officials around him are tired of his ultimatums. They're also unhappy about his thinly veiled support for Romney. Perhaps he's emotionally unbalanced and can't help it. It's cause for concern that his finger's on Israel's nuclear trigger.
Conscience International head James Jennings told Press TV America must stop supporting Israel. "The United States should change its entire Middle East policy," he said, "beginning with its support for Israel and should support the Palestinian cause more."
Doing so "would send a great message," he added. Perhaps it would go a long way toward ending bloodshed.
After an overnight conversation with Obama, Netanyahu's tone softened. It's likely temporary. Don't bet he changed. Photos of the two together show images of strained relations.
Former State Department spokesman PJ Crowley witnessed nine face-to-face meetings. There's "a lack of rapport between these two men," he said. "They don't like each other very much. Plus, there are serious differences between our interests and Israel's."
He added that Netanyahu stresses "agenda-setting." He watched both political conventions. Israel and Iran were mentioned, "but not significantly discussed, even" though Democrats changed their Jerusalem position. Netanyahu wants Israel on "the front burner."
It's also personal with Bibi, said Crowley. He thinks he has maximum leverage pre-election. He believes his hawkishness got Washington to impose tougher sanctions. He's not about to go it alone and attack Iran. He thinks Obama will win in November. He prefers Romney.
Last November in a press conference with Nicolas Sarkozy, a hot microphone moment caught the former French president saying "I cannot bear" Netanyahu. He also called him "a liar."
Obama responded, saying "You're fed up, but I have to deal with him every day."
Netanyahu claims "leaders are tested at times of differences with our allies, even our closest allies. We face huge challenges. As prime minister, it's my duty to insist on Israel's vital interests and to ensure its security and future."
As long as he remains prime minister, relations with any US president won't be easy.
"The most important interest today," he claims, "is to prevent Iran from continuing its clear effort to obtain nuclear weapons - weapons in the hands of a state that calls for our destruction and is bent on achieving its goal."
Of course, he, other Israeli officials and US ones know Iran has no nuclear weapons program, doesn't plan one, threatens no one, and isn't hell bent to destroy Israel. Yet he keeps saying it. His bluster long ago wore thin. No wonder Obama, other US officials, and some Israeli ones are fed up with him.
He'll keep stressing red lines, he says. Without them, "Iranians would have no reason to stop their drive to obtain nuclear weapons." His bombast won't quit. Nor do supportive comments from other Likudnik hardliners.
Opposition leader Shaul Mofaz blamed him for strained US/Israeli relation. "Throughout Israel's history," he said, "the drums of war have never beaten so incessantly as during these days."
Jonathan Cook calls America's special relationship with Israel more myth than reality. It's been "propagated by politicians to mask the suspicion - and plentiful examples of duplicity and betrayal - that have marked the relationship since Israel's founding."
"Politicians may prefer to express undying love for Israel, and hand over billions of dollars annually in aid, but the US security establishment has - at least, in private - always regarded Israel as an unfaithful partner."
Disagreement over Iran is palpable. It's more about timing than intent. At the same time, officials in both countries strongly oppose war. They know potential consequences are too catastrophic to risk.
They're also concerned about a volatile, at times out-of-control, prime minister. For good reason, they don't trust him.
A former US intelligence official said "Israel is far from a trusted ally in the US 'war on terror.' " So why talk of special ties. In part, it's because of the formidable Israeli Lobby. It intimidates virtually the entire Congress.
Israel is also nuclear armed and dangerous. It's also believed to have a potent chemical and biological weapons arsenal. If threatened, it won't hesitate using them.
Perhaps Washington prioritizes reigning in this menace. At the same time, US military field commanders have tactical nuclear weapons and other WMDs. In combat situations, they're authorized to use them at their discretion.
Both countries threaten their own people and humanity. That bottom line counts most.
To meet or not to meet! Mossad-connected DEBKAfile said "Obama's refusal….to see (Netanyahu in New York) because 'the president's schedule will not permit that' left Jerusalem thunderstruck - and Washington, too."
In late September, both leaders will address the UN General Assembly on different dates. Meeting there or in Washington was thought to be one way to resolves differences over Iran.
"By rebuffing Netanyahu," Obama showed he opposes unilateral Israeli action. Netanyahu's bluster doesn't make things easier. He's his own worst enemy. He wants a firm commitment and timeline on Iran.
Sparring between the two leaders "reached a point of no return." Perhaps they'll meet after all. Finding common ground won't be easy. Repairing strained relations may take precedence. Who knows what's possible dealing with a prime minister who won't take no for an answer.
Some officials in both countries believe relations between them are deteriorating. Netanyahu's foot-in-mouth disease explains why. A US president's refusal to meet an Israeli prime minister is unprecedented in recent memory.
The last time both leaders met, Netanyahu was overbearing, demanding and offensive. Obama likely deplores a repeat. Netanyahu has more than Iran in mind. After his last White House visit, his popularity soared. It was temporary. He needs all the help he can get.
Israeli sources believe he'll get the meeting he wants. Expect another White House one replete with favorable photo-op publicity. He'll get more in New York. He'll meet with Hillary Clinton.
Obama officials deny strained relations with him. White House sources say it. They're paid to lie. So are ambassadors. Dan Shapiro, Washington's Israeli envoy, said both men agreed by phone to continue their "close cooperation and conversations."
Some wonder. Netanyahu goes out of his way to alienate people. Even America's media and some Democrats are less supportive.
The New York Times reported what it called "unusually harsh public comments about Israel's most important ally." Its September 13 article headlined "Obama Rebuffs Netanyahu on Setting Limits on Iran's Nuclear Program."
An unnamed US official said Washington's red line is an Iranian nuclear weapon. There is none, of course, nor plans to build one.
Netanyahu demands more. Relations with Obama reflect "frequently crossed wires." Netanyahu's bluster doesn't help. Saying Obama has no "moral right" to restrain Israel fuels resentment.
Israeli officials are offended. Netanyahu "faces deep divisions within his own country." His own deputy prime minister for intelligence and atomic affairs, Dan Meridor, told Israeli Army radio: "I don't want to set red lines or deadlines for myself." Others share his view for good reason.
Senator Barbara Boxer posted a letter on her web site headlined "Boxer Expresses Disappointment Over Israeli Prime Minister's Remarks."
Calling herself one of Israel's strongest supporters, she said Netanyahu's comments are "utterly contrary to the extraordinary United States-Israel alliance…."
"In light of this, I am stunned by the remarks that you made this week regarding U.S. support for Israel. Are you suggesting that the United States is not Israel’s closest ally and does not stand by Israel?"
"Are you saying that Israel, under President Obama, has not received more in annual security assistance from the United States than at any time in its history, including for the Iron Dome Missile Defense System?"
In New Yorker editor David Remnick's Neocon Gambits article, he said:
"It is hard to overestimate the risks that Benjamin Netanyahu poses to the future of his own country. As Prime Minister, he has done more than any other political figure to embolden and elevate the reactionary forces in Israel, to eliminate the dwindling possibility of a just settlement with the Palestinians, and to isolate his country on the world diplomatic stage."
"Now Netanyahu seems determined, more than ever, to alienate the President of the United States and, as an ally of Mitt Romney’s campaign, to make himself a factor in the 2012 election - one no less pivotal than the most super Super PAC."
He added that Netanyahu's most trusted US allies are hardliners going along with him no matter what he says, does, or wants.
Other US media critics call him "brazen," "disgusting," "overbearing," and "over-the-top." It's hard remembering any previous Israeli leader taken to task this way.
Netanyahu remains his own worst enemy. He's so obstinate, single-minded, unyielding, and tantrum-prone, he'll likely muddle on, do little to sooth relations, leave fences unmended, and alienate growing numbers of Israeli supporters. Peace advocates for sure hope so.
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|William A. Cook|