Sometimes it takes three to tango

Obama’s greatest ally in Israel is Shimon Peres. He is the one who defended Obama even during the difficult times, when Israelis referred to him as Hussein.

By
March 21, 2013 23:17
4 minute read.
Netanyahu, Obama and Peres at Ben Gurion Airport, March 20, 2013.

Netanyahu, Obama, Peres at airport 390. (photo credit: Avi Ohayon/GPO)

Barack Obama is a quick study. Data go in, and conclusions are spit out. The fact that he was elected for a second term proves this. He has learned from all of his mistakes – and there were many – during his first term. He completely missed the mark when it came to Israel.

Obama wants to make up for this and accomplish everything during his second administration, to fix all the problems and achieve all of his goals. And to do this, he needs Israel. He needs the cooperation of AIPAC and the rest of the pro-Israel lobby. What Obama needs to do now is repair his relationship with Binyamin Netanyahu and only afterwards pull out his list of demands.

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The Israelis were not overexcited by the fact that Obama has been the most friendly and helpful US president for Israel ever in terms of security. But we did notice that he never came to Israel, and went to Cairo instead.

We noticed that he succumbed to the dictates of the Arab world, but gave us a cold shoulder. And because there was no warmth, his pushing did not help either.

But now the Americans get it.

Obama doesn’t have the warmth that Bill Clinton did. He’s a real cold fish. No, he can’t stand Netanyahu, but if he decides that he needs Netanyahu to achieve his goals, then he can be his friend. Or at least pretend to be.

Obama knows that Netanyahu is slick and stealthy. The master of illusion and appearances, who can tell you exactly what you want to hear and then later disappear.

And so Obama is trying to adjust to this new, weakened Netanyahu.

Obama learned the most interesting details from his mentor, Shimon Peres, during their closed session. Even Peres, who shares many personality characteristics with Obama (namely optimism), understood that if you want to squeeze juice out the lemon called Bibi, you first need to learn the lay of the land and to adapt yourself to it. And what has Peres gained from all this? Nothing. As usual, in the end Bibi somehow wiggled his way out and disappeared.

Obama came to Israel to charm us. He came to conquer the hearts of the Israeli public. As things look now, it appears that he has achieved his goal. Obama is one of the greatest political orators of the modern age. If he can win over the Americans, he can surely conquer Israel, too.

He didn’t ask to be shown the Iron Dome missile defense system for nothing (a not so subtle reminder that the development of this technology, as well as that of the Arrow missiles, were possible due to generous US funding.

In the arm wrestle between Obama and Netanyahu on the Iran issue, Obama was clearly the victor (as opposed to the Palestinian issue, on which Netanyahu beat Obama).

The fact that Bibi did not bomb Iran ahead of the US election was considered a huge victory for the Americans. Apparently they don’t know Bibi well enough to know that he is not the bombing type.

He’s the speech-giving type.

But the Iran threat has not gone away. Netanyahu continues to make threats about bombing Iran. In his press conference with Obama in Jerusalem, he mentioned Israel’s right to protect itself three times.

Obama should have made it clear that this option does not exist. That if Israel attacks unilaterally, Israel will be on its own, and the US would not be there to clean up the mess.

Obama’s greatest ally in Israel is Shimon Peres. He is the one who defended Obama even during the difficult times, when Israelis referred to him as Hussein. He is the one who believes in the American president with all his heart when he proclaims that Iran will never achieve nuclear capability.

Peres is Obama’s adviser on a variety of issues: the Jewish People, the State of Israel, the Middle East and the “situation.” The Americans requested that the meeting with Peres be private, which can be translated as the Americans not wanting it to be publicized, since what Obama wanted to discuss was strictly confidential.

Obama has something like 17 intelligence organizations gathering information for him, whose budgets total more than that of the State of Israel, and yet he still needs Peres to explain to him what’s going on here, who’s against whom and why.

When Obama landed at Ben- Gurion Airport, he was supposed to shake Peres’s hand first (according to protocol, the US president is supposed to first shake hands with his Israeli counterpart, i.e. Peres), Netanyahu burst forward so that he could be the first to shake hands with Obama. This incident brought many smiles to faces on both sides.

In normal times, Peres would have been insulted. Twenty or 30 years ago he would have been broiling from such a scene. But this time, Peres accepted the situation calmly. Peres wants the relationship between Obama and Bibi to improve. He has been investing a tremendous amount time into this issue, because Peres continues to yearn for the time when Bibi will go back to negotiations with Mahmoud Abbas. And therefore, what we are seeing between Obama and Peres and Bibi is a delicate, fragile dance for three, saturated with passion and desires. It turns out that in this absurd place you don’t need two to tango – you need three.

Translated by Hannah Hochner.


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