Herbert London: The Aftermath Of Netanyahu’s Victory
The champagne bottles in the White House remain unopened. Despite the vigorous efforts of the Obama team to unseat Netanyahu in the recent Israeli elections, he prevailed. President Obama made clear his vitriolic sentiments towards Bibi Netanyahu are undiminished.
In a stunning rebuke of a foreign head of state, Obama dispatched his chief spokesman to criticize Netanyahu’s campaign strategy, while anonymous administration officials hinted the U.S. could withdraw support for Israel at the United Nations. In an act of gratuitous pettiness, the president delayed the ritual call of congratulations.
President Obama contends that the rhetoric during the course of the campaign was deeply divisive, marginalizing Arab-Israeli citizens. The president neglected to mention the fact that his aides tried to encourage Arab voters even through the Arab party endorses Hamas, an avowed enemy of Israel. And this is the action and sentiment of a presumptive ally. “With friends like that… .”
Despite the frosty nature of the relationship, there is bound to be some healing. Prime Minister Netanyahu has already modified his stance on the “two state solution” from “not on my watch” to “under the right circumstances” a Palestinian state can be created. Historic bonds between the two nations are not easily severed, even with a president whose hostility to Israel is palpable. The likehood of a shift in the U.S. position at the U.N. on a Palestinian state is, as I see it, an empty threat.
Steps that jeopardize Israel’s future as a Palestinian state would, invariably affect American interests in the region. The president may wish to punish Israel for what he regards as intransigence and resistance to his “deal” with Iran, but he is constrained by a Congress that has a exhibited bipartisan support for Israel, even if that support is waning in the Democratic party.
There is another overlooked consideration. Even though Egypt, Jordan and Saudi Arabia will chastise Israel over the Palestinian question, they know that in their emerging struggle with Iran and its imperial Shia ambitions, Israel is an ally. All the negative votes in the U.N. cannot undo the cordial military to military communication and assistance between Israel and her Sunni neighbors.
Just as Israel is constrained by its reliance on United States support, the U.S. president is constrained as well. Should the president refuse to veto a Security Council mandate for the creation of a Palestinian state – a truly unlikely event notwithstanding press accounts to the contrary – the act would have little more than symbolic meaning. Israel would indeed be isolated, but, in fact, no more isolated than it is at the moment. Netanyahu can play his diplomatic hand in China, India and Japan as he increasingly does. Israel has much to offer the world through its technical expertise; the Palestinians offer nothing. What should be recognized is that a Palestinian state adjacent to Israel harboring hostility and the means to manifest its blood lust, would only precipitate a regional war. There may be a Palestinian state in time, but it is unlikely to be my life time.
It might also be recalled that after President Obama bids adieu to the White House, Netanyahu is still more than likely to be prime minister of Israel. The frost in the relationship will be melting. Perhaps this claim will be regarded as polyannish to some, but even in this dark and pessimistic moment in history, there are occasional rays of light on the horizon.
Herbert London is President of the London Center for Policy Research, a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute and author of the book The Transformational Decade (University Press of America). You can read all of Herb London’s commentaries atwww.londoncenter.org
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