Did Obama 'disrespect' Israel's Netanyahu?

Obama and the Israeli prime minister made a rather tense joint appearance Friday, a day after Obama called out Israel in a globally broadcast speech

President Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu
(Image credit: REUTERS/Jim Young)

President Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had a "lengthy meeting" in the Oval Office Friday, a day after the president gave a sharply criticized speech calling for Israel to largely redraw its borders along pre-1967 lines (before the Arab-Israeli war ended with the West Bank, Gaza Strip, and other territories under Israel’s control). The relationship between the two leaders "has never been warm," says Helene Cooper in The New York Times, and the Israeli prime minister objected to Obama's plan in a "furious phone call with Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton." Netanyahu later called the pre-1967 boundaries "indefensible," while GOP presidential contender Mitt Romney insisted the president had "disrespected" Israel, and Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.) charged that Obama had "betrayed" a U.S. ally. Is Obama guilty as charged?

Obama isn't treating Israel like a friend: Obama's language shifted "away from Isarel and toward the Palestinians," says Elliott Abrams at National Review. That may be a political calculation, but regardless, it's clear that "the administration persists in treating Israel as a problem rather than an ally." Obama's remarks should have been more fully "discussed with the Israelis instead of being dumped on their heads... with zero advance notice or warning or explanation, leaving them scrambling to figure out what it all meant."

"Obama's empty speech"

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Actually, Netanyahu dissed Obama: The president's call for Israel's borders to be based on the pre-1967 lines is nothing new, says Jeffrey Goldberg at The Atlantic. It's the same starting point that the U.S. — not to mention Netanyahu's predecessor — has often cited. And if you're going to talk about disrespect, what about Bibi's announcement that he "expects to hear a reaffirmation from President Obama of U.S. commitments made to Israel in 2004, which were overwhelmingly supported by both houses of Congress." That statement "was not appropriate," and looked like Netanyahu was going "out of his way to alienate" Obama.

"Dear Mr. Netanyahu, please don't speak to my president that way"

These guys just don't get along: The two leaders don't have "a great deal of personal chemistry or trust," says Aaron David Miller in Foreign Policy. President Clinton "didn't much care for Netanyahu" either, but he at least understood him as a politician. "Obama... sees [Netanyahu] as a con man and an obstacle." And Netanyahu sees Obama as "cold," with "little empathy when it comes to understanding Israeli needs."

"President 'Yes, I Can' meets Prime Minister 'No, You Won't'"

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