It's simple as pie to criticize politicians for what they do, and what they don't do.

It's just as easy to declare what they must do, and what they must not do.

What's tough is to explain what they can do, and what they cannot do.

There is no shortage of commentators who spend their days doing what is simple. Moderate examples include Thomas Friedman on the left and Caroline Glick on the right. One puts too much blame on Bibi and the settlements, and the other is too shrill about just about everything that disturbs Israel.

You can sample Glick's shrillness via an item that describes Obama as pretty close to an anti-Semite while admiring Jews, or an article that describes Israelis who want to tighten regulations on energy companies as

 "A rent-a-mob composed of socialist politicians and activists, regulators and bureaucrats, all upset that free market forces enriched investors without their permission, demanded a confiscatory cut in the profits from the energy resource Israel now enjoys only because private companies invested hundreds of millions of dollars to extract it from the bottom of the sea."

Friedman's obsession with settlements and Netanyahu appears as clearly as anywhere in an article that celebrates Bibi's victory in the March, 2015 election with

"The biggest losers in all of this, besides all the Israelis who did not vote for Netanyahu, are American Jews and non-Jews who support Israel. What Bibi did to win this election was move the Likud Party from a center-right party to a far-right one. The additional votes he got were all grabbed from the other far-right parties — not from the center. When the official government of Israel is a far-right party that rejects a two-state solution and employs anti-Arab dog whistles to get elected, it will split the basic unity of the American Jewish community on Israel. How many American Jews want to defend a one-state solution in Washington or on their college campuses? Is Aipac, the Israel lobby, now going to push for a one-state solution on Capitol Hill? How many Democrats and Republicans would endorse that?
Warning: Real trouble ahead.

Bibi may have taken Tom's advice. Latest news is that he is standing against coalition partner Naftali Bennett who wants to expand settlements in the West Bank. According to Netanyahu, there are some things not appropriate in the context of international politics.

Tom might say, "I told him so."

Others can see classic Bibi in speaking shrill and acting against extremists.

There are columnists and bloggers so extreme as to be beyond the horizon separating us from the tooth fairy and Santa Claus. Examples on the right are those who would ethnically cleanse Israel and Palestine of Palestinians. Those on the left would cleanse Israel of Jews.

What's more difficult is explaining why the dreams of Friedman and Glick are just that.

It's hard to imagine an American President more complex than Barack Obama. The son of an African father he did not know and an adventurous mother who exposed him to the softer Islam of Indonesia. He identifies himself as an Afro-American, with a long association with a radical preacher and community organizers, yet having  close associations with Jews. It would be pretentious to know how each of those facets shape a presidency also dependent on the world's most complex institutions of policymaking.  It's easy to find contrasts that don't fit conventional expectations,  as Glick does in a long article. It's not wise to sit in judgement.

A Republican majority in Congress is just part of the complexity. Other constraints come from professionals at the upper levels of the federal bureaucracy, as well as the social complexities in a population of more than 300 million.

Likewise with respect to Israel's politics process open to all views on a strategic gas deal having many parts. The population is blessed with overt socialists and children of Communists, along with free enterprise enthusiasts who make Bibi appear red. That's what you get in a Jewish state, built on Jews who have been in business and against business for as long as there have been Jews.

Bibi's majority in the Knesset resembles Obama's lack of majority in Congress. Bibi has the advantage of more than 30 years in senior government positions that provided richer schooling than Obama's half term as a junior Senator.

Friedman has long had a thing about settlements and what they do to the Middle East. He was also among the loudest applauders for Barack Obama's Cairo speech, Arab Spring, and a New Middle East. He is critical of Palestinian rejection of deals with Israel. What he does not tell us what to do with the 600,000 of us living beyond his preferred borders, the 300,000 outside of Jerusalem, or even the 80,000 outside of the major settlement blocs.

All this against the rejections of Palestinians that Friedman also criticizes, and what happened in response to Israel's withdrawal of Gaza settlements a decade ago.

We're living with little deals, far short of solutions or anything that can be proclaimed as a victory over anything. We can hope a gas deal will come, but it will take more fiddling with the details.

There is as much to criticize about Benyamin Netanyahu and his actions as policymaker as about Barack Obama. 

While Bibi was calling the agreement with Iran a historic mistake, one of Bibi's colleagues detailed the problems in the agreement two hours before the nearly 200 page document was scheduled to be released. He sounded confident that Iran would be free to do what it wanted after a 10 year period, but did not consider what others could do if Iran began to sound too uppity.

Criticism of Obama is easy. What's not so easy is deciding what to do about a regime with significant technological capacity, already close to nuclear weapons and closer to missiles capable of delivering them, with the background filled with American failures in trying to shape distant places with armed force.

Explanations of Obama's insistence on diplomacy may begin with Vietnam, Iraq, and Obama's conclusion that military force has failed to achieve its goals. His reputation now depends on whether Iran remains anywhere close to the hopes of those applauding this deal.

The High Representative of the EU for Foreign Policy, praised the agreement as a sign of what could be achieved by diplomacy.

Remember Chamberlain, and his achievement of "peace in our time?"

A couple of days beyond the publication of the agreement, we can see assurances and project problems in assuring them. Bibi is at his shrillist. Pessimists are predicting an aggressive attack on the field of Congress, likely to stumble when not enough Democrats vote against a Presidential veto. Optimists are hoping that Bibi's moderation will show itself.

Easy work for commentators who see what's wrong in the agreement, and the tactics of Obama and/or Netanyahu. Firm predictions are over the edge of what is possible, but there'll be lots of them..

 


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