Opinion Brief

Netanyahu's 'useless' feud with Obama

Israel's prime minister has had a public falling out with Obama over the president's proposal for restarting Mideast peace talks. Is Bibi just hurting himself?

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu addressed Congress on Tuesday, just four days after rejecting President Obama's vision for renewing Middle East peace negotiations. The flash point was Obama's suggestion that negotiations on the borders of a future Palestinian state should use the boundaries that were in place before the 1967 Arab-Israeli war as a starting point, with other land swaps determining the final lines. Obama said that wasn't even a departure from previous U.S. policy. Netanyahu said it was unacceptable and unrealistic. Was this worth fighting about? 

Netanyahu is making a huge mistake: The really important things in Obama's big speech on the Middle East last week were actually good for Israel, says Eliot Spitzer at Slate.  He made it clear the U.S. doesn't expect Israel to negotiate with a Palestinian group that includes Hamas, unless the Islamist faction accepts Israel's right to exist. Obama also rejected the Palestinians' effort to isolate Israel by winning official recognition from the United Nations. Netanyahu should be thanking Obama, not picking a "useless, counterproductive fight.""Netanyahu blew it"

And his stubbornness will hurt Israel: Obama's speech "was welcomed in most of the world and by most major U.S. Jewish organizations," says James Fallows at The Atlantic. But Netanyahu pulled off a stunning Dick Cheney impression, mistaking intransigence for wisdom, and appearing "blind and tone-deaf to the 'moral' and 'soft power' components of influence." Feuding with Obama is a poor strategy for "a nation highly dependent on stable relations with the United States — and on ultimately making an agreement in the region that allows it to survive as a Jewish democratic state." "The Dick Cheney of Israel"

No, Obama is the one who blew it: Netanyahu is only "saying things that ought to be obvious," says Bryan Preston at Pajamas Media. "Israel is not what’s wrong with the Middle East," and needlessly scolding our ally only strengthens the bargaining power of the Islamists who are really blocking peace. "I'm sure President Obama can find a way to make himself look more irresponsible and ridiculous than he currently does, but it's hard to see how.""Netanyahu at AIPAC"

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