Feature

Netanyahu, Obama butt heads

President Obama offered Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu a cool welcome in Washington, as the two leaders failed to resolve a deepening dispute over Jewish settlements.

President Obama offered Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu a cool welcome in Washington this week, as the two leaders failed to resolve a deepening dispute over Jewish settlements. In two private meetings, Netanyahu refused to budge on Obama’s demand that he scrap settlement plans or at least refrain from announcing them. In a sharp break with tradition, Obama then declined to give a joint press conference with the Israeli leader or even release a photo of the two men shaking hands.

Before meeting with Obama, Netanyahu gave a defiant speech to AIPAC, the pro-Israel lobby. “Jerusalem is not a settlement,” he said. “It’s our capital.” Secretary of State Hillary Clinton countered with her own address to AIPAC, insisting that Israel will only achieve the peace it needs to be secure when it stops building on Palestinian land.

“Friends have spats, but this seems to be more than that,” said The Economist. After Israel announced new settlements during Vice President Joe Biden’s visit a couple of weeks ago, it seems that something snapped. It was as if the incident “ignited the rage that has smoldered in Obama’s breast” since last year, when Netanyahu first refused to agree to a settlement freeze.

It’s not anger that’s driving Obama, it’s a clear-eyed weighing of U.S. interests, said the Los Angeles Times in an editorial. The White House “appears to have internalized” warnings from the Pentagon that the festering Palestinian problem is the main source of the anti-Americanism that “undermines our efforts in Iraq and Afghanistan.” In other words, a Palestinian state is in the best interests of the U.S.

Yet, Obama’s “dramatic overreaction” has harmed both Israel and the peace process, said Joel Mowbray in The Washington Times. We haven’t seen nearly this “level of protest and hand-wringing” from Obama about truly vile actions by Iran, such as “killing innocent democracy protesters in the street.” Obama has handed Palestinians “a much-desired excuse to back out” of planned peace talks.

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