By Larry Gordon
“The Secretary of State’s patience is not unlimited,” said an Obama administration official, referring to the so-called breach of protocol that is the planned address before the U.S. Congress by Prime Minister Netanyahu in March.
The reference was apparently to the facts that the administration knew nothing of the planned speech and that Kerry had a two-hour meeting Tuesday last week with Israel’s ambassador to the U.S., Ron Dermer, at which time the ambassador never mentioned the planned address to Congress.
At last week’s State of the Union address, when the president stated that he has no more election campaigns to run, there was a smattering of applause that emanated from the Republican side of the hall. At that point Mr. Obama paused, looked around, and in an improvisational fashion, remarked that he already had two elections and won both.
While that is true, there was also another election two months ago in which the American people roundly rejected his presidency by taking away Democratic control of the Senate and increasing the Republican majority in the House. So who is he kidding?
Though the bond between the U.S. and Israel is unshakable, as they say, the relationship between Mr. Obama and Mr. Netanyahu is, on the contrary, kind of shaky. There is an apparent negative chemistry between them, and it shows. Netanyahu is smooth and eloquent, while Obama babbles and fumbles when he has no prepared script.
Democratic Senator Bob Menendez of New Jersey, head of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said that the Obama comments on Iran and its nuclear potential seem to be “talking points provided by Tehran.”
Much of the Senate is for increasing sanctions on untrustworthy Iran while talks proceed, whereas Obama and his people are in favor of lessening sanctions as a demonstration of additional good faith. Israel at present favors revving up sanctions, and therein lies the current conflict.
Mr. Obama said this week that he would not be meeting with Mr. Netanyahu when he is in Washington in March at the AIPAC Policy Conference and for the congressional address. A White House spokesman said that’s because, with Israeli elections scheduled for March 17, U.S. policy is to not give foreign leaders a public-relations forum during an election campaign, to not meddle in or prejudice elections in other countries.
That is all fine and good—but not true. In 1996, President Clinton met with candidate Shimon Peres a few weeks prior to his election in which he lost to Mr. Netanyahu. Netanyahu won that election by a razor-thin edge. So maybe American policy has shifted or changed. Or more likely it’s personal and Mr. Obama just does not want to see the prime minister.
FrontPageMagazine.com reports this week that there is a U.S. election team on the ground in Israel currently working to unseat Mr. Netanyahu in the forthcoming March 17 election. The team of five operatives, according to the report, occupies an entire floor in a Tel-Aviv office building. They are led by Jeremy Bird, an Obama deputy national field director in the 2008 campaign and deputy director of Organizing America in Mr. Obama’s 2012 campaign. In order to work on the election campaign in Israel, Mr. Bird has taken a leave from the Ready for Hillary election campaign organization. So much for not interfering in elections overseas.
I believe there will be a meeting between the two leaders. This is just a simplistic game with trappings of international intrigue and one of these men getting the better of the other.
One of the surprising things about this latest round of back-and-forth between the U.S. and Israel is how Mr. Obama so nonchalantly, time and again, misleads the American people. On 60 Minutes Sunday night, House Speaker Boehner said that it was untrue that he had not told the White House that he had invited the Israeli prime minister to address the Congress.
An additional and perhaps bigger surprise is how the usual trustworthy supporters of Israel and Mr. Netanyahu are drawing the line and having second thoughts about that consistent support when the matter of Bibi addressing Congress is raised.
Chris Wallace of Fox News and Peggy Noonan of the Wall Street Journal have both questioned the move by the Israeli leader. They believe that though Congress is within its right to invite the prime minister to address that august body, the fashion in which events evolved demonstrated disrespect for the office of the presidency.
Bill O’Reilly on Fox News says that he welcomes the Netanyahu appearance in Congress on March 3, but feels that we should wait for the June 30 negotiation deadline before threatening or imposing new sanctions on Iran. He feels that imposing new sanctions—even though everyone agrees that new sanctions will not be imposed until after the set deadline—gives the Iranians an excuse to wiggle out of any deal.
I understand what they are saying and know where they are coming from, but this president has already disrespected that office, so their suggestion is way off track. As for the White House reason for not setting up a meeting between Mr. Obama and Mr. Netanyahu, well, that is also packed with distortions and mistruths in the style of Jonathan Gruber and Obamacare.
So much of what Mr. Obama offered as fact at last week’s State of the Union lacked credence and plainly misstated the reality. Mr. Obama talked of success in fighting al-Qaeda in Yemen and then a few days later the Yemenite government falls and is taken over by a radical Islamist group.
The unemployment rate only went down the way it did because over two million American have given up on looking for work and have dropped out of the workforce. And oil prices have plummeted because the U.S. has finally decided to dig for and produce its own oil despite obstacles placed in the path of oil producers by Mr. Obama.
With less than two years remaining in his tenure as president, it is becoming clearer every day that history will record these eight years as a period in which America experienced a sharp decline on numerous levels.
Is there anything that emanates from this White House or president that is true or authentic? Charles Krauthammer, a Fox News commentator, has said on numerous occasions that when it comes to the Obama administration and the choice between whether their actions are a result of corruption or incompetence, he continues to choose the latter, incompetence.
I tended to agree with him for a while, but now I am not so certain. There is more than just a basketful of incompetence in this administration and that is how it has been from the start. At the same time, to say that Mr. Obama has a cold spot in his heart for Jews would not be accurate either. He is surrounded by Jewish staff and indeed friends of many years.
What he apparently cannot tolerate are Jews like Benjamin Netanyahu who stand up for Jewish rights without too much compromise. The Obama folks are more comfortable with a backward-moving and shrinking state of Israel. The idea of growth and extraordinary accomplishments in all fields apparently does not sit well with him.
Despite the strain in the personal relationship between the two leaders, the U.S. is still and will always be Israel’s greatest ally regardless of who the president is. Mr. Netanyahu will have some wonderful things to say about Mr. Obama in his address before Congress. He will talk about the president’s commitment to Israel’s security and U.S. support for Israel at the UN. And that will all be important and true. The president may or may not wholeheartedly support Israel, but at the end of the day he really has no choice but to support it.
Mr. Netanyahu will also most likely publicly ask Mr. Obama to free Jonathan Pollard after three decades in prison. The president does not hesitate to release al-Qaeda terrorists from Guantánamo or Cuban spies from U.S. jails. But he has a serious problem with all that Jonathan Pollard represents. The president, if he could, should be ashamed of himself.
In the backdrop of all this is the promise made by President Obama a few days before his first inaugural address in 2009. At the time, he said that what we were about to see with his assuming office is “a fundamental transformation of the United States of America.” He certainly did try to do that on numerous occasions. Judging, however, from the recent results of the midterm elections, America’s response after all these years is “No, thank you—we are not interested.”
Comments for Larry Gordon are welcome at firstname.lastname@example.org.