Obama and Israel

There might still be a strained relationship between Obama and Netanyahu, but this should not get in the way of relations between the countries.

November 8, 2012 22:46
3 minute read.
Netanyahu and Obama in New York

Netanyahu and Obama in New York(good)_311. (photo credit: Reuters)


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The 2012 US presidential elections were particularly combative. One of the most divisive issues was President Barack Obama’s Middle East policies. Obama was assailed for purportedly being too weak on Iran; he was criticized for pushing Israel too hard vis-à-vis the Palestinians; he was taken to task for failing to confront the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt and radical Islam elsewhere.

His Republican opponents highlighted Obama’s tense relationship with Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu.

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Obama was accused of snubbing Netanyahu during visits to the White House; in a “hot mic” moment, he seemed to concur with then-French president Nicolas Sarkozy about his distaste for Netanyahu; in September, Obama failed to find the time to meet with Netanyahu during the prime minister’s trip to the US to address the UN General Assembly.

Relations between the two men were seen in Israel to be so bad that in the aftermath of Obama’s victory some even expect the US president – no longer concerned about getting reelected – to take revenge.

Just a day after the US election, Army Radio quoted sources in the Likud claiming that Obama could work against Netanyahu in the upcoming Israeli elections as payback for Netanyahu’s apparent preference for Mitt Romney in the US presidential race.

The tensions between the countries and their leaders were reflected in surveys of Israeli attitudes. A Smith Research poll sponsored by The Jerusalem Post in mid- October, for example, found that 28 percent of Jewish Israelis believed that the Obama administration was more pro-Palestinian, 18% found it to be more pro-Israel and 40% called it neutral, with 14% declining to participate.

Still, while Obama and Romney might have voiced very different approaches on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, four more years of Obama’s leadership will, we hope, not be a source of concern for those who care about Israel.


Regarding Iran, Obama might ultimately be more disposed than Romney to use military means if necessary.

Romney, who would likely be perceived by the American Left as continuing George W. Bush’s “regime change” policies in the Middle East, might face a massive anti-war campaign if he launched a military attack on Iran.

In contrast, Obama could be more successful at building a broad consensus – both at home and abroad – for using force to stop Iran’s nuclear program. Unlike Romney, who would take precious time putting together his own foreign policy team as Iran continues its stubborn march toward nuclear weapon capability, Obama has already articulated his stance on Iran – including going on record numerous times as saying that it is an American interest to prevent Iran from achieving nuclear weapon capability. And he has made a point of not ruling out military action.

With regard to Palestinians and settlements, Obama seems to have learned from his mistake of forcing a construction freeze on Israel. Though his intention might have been to set in motion negotiations leading to a viable two-state solution, the move only succeeded in hardening a hopelessly intransigent Palestinian leadership.

As former US president Bill Clinton discovered in his second term and as Obama has undoubtedly already realized, so long as the Palestinians refuse to reconcile themselves to Jewish nationhood, it will be impossible to achieve long-lasting peace.

With Syria engulfed in a bloody civil war, Egypt entering an era of radical Islamization and Iran threatening to attain nuclear weapons, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict does not hold the same urgency as it once did, particularly since the relatively peaceful status quo that exists between Israel and the Palestinian Authority seems sustainable – at least in the short-term.

On numerous occasions, Obama has presented himself as a friend of Israel. Whether from the podium of the UN General Assembly, via the strengthening of military cooperation between the US and Israel or in his unequivocal stand on Iran, Obama has defended cardinal Israeli interests that dovetail with American interests.

There might still be a strained relationship between Obama and Netanyahu, but this should not get in the way of the strong relations between the countries. It is our fervent hope that the next four years will see these ties boosted even further, together with a reduction in the tension between our respective leaders.

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