There is something American about the most request quarrel between Barack Obama and Benyamin Netanyahu.
There are other things as well. A clash of strong egos, of the kinds required and nurtured by serious politics. And greatly different geopolitics. While Obama is required by his setting to play among the world leaders and strive for primacy while assigning secondary importance to the demands of any ally, Netanyahu seeks to defend a nation with a history of constant threats, and is a Jewish outlier among hostile Muslims.
Their Americanism are as different as they can be. Obama is the archetype of a liberal Democrat, not only speaking for but representing the Black underclass and seeking a better deal for the unfortunates of the Third World from which his father came.
Netanyahu has attached himself to Sheldon Adelson. Adelson's paper, a giveaway that is the most widely read in Israel, is officially Israel Hayom (Israel Today), but goes by the name Bibipress among those who see it as primarily concerned to put the Prime Minister and his wife in the best light possible.
Obama's efforts for the Palestinians come from his domestic and international perspectives, and arguably from his personal background. His birth resulted from a major American effort in the early post-colonial period to bring young Africans to American universities, in the hope of contributing to economic development in their home countries, and to add respect for the American values of individual freedom, opportunity, and democracy.
One can ask to what extent the program succeeded or failed in general, and whether the Obama presidency is worth the US Government's investment in his father.
Obama matured in a period when Equal Opportunity, Affirmative Action and Community Action were prominent themes in domestic policy. He owes them his education, and his employment as a community activist.
Netanyahu also had a formative American exposure, that has left its mark on his language, and his sense of what appeals to many Americans. His father spent several years on American faculties, perhaps because he was judged too political on the wrong side of what prevailed in Israeli faculties. Netanyahu matured in American colleges soon after the end of Jewish quotas and other overt discrimination. The Jewish students he met would have access to employment in major corporations, but knew that their fathers would probably not have been accepted at the colleges where the young people studied, and would have had to make their careers in the limited fields open to Jews. Gentlemen's Agreements at country clubs and Restrictive Covenants in choice neighborhoods were on their way out when Netanyahu studied in the United States, but not by too many years, and perhaps not completely.
So there should be no surprise that Netanyahu defends the right of Israeli Jews to live where they choose, while Obama sees West Bank settlements and Jewish neighborhoods of East Jerusalem as threats to his international preferences.
Bibi's American experiences supply his rhetoric and maybe some of his motivation, but the power behind his support of settlement (confused as it is by overt or tacit agreements to halt construction or limit its extent) comes also from the political power of the settlers and their friends, currently most clearly expressed by Jewish Home.
Somewhere in the background of the squabble over settlement may be conflict between Blacks and Jews in US cities, tainted as it is by anti-Semitism and racism. Supporters of Barack and Bibi may talk about this dimension, but we can assume that that both Bibi and Barack are careful to keep such things out of their discussions.
Americans and Israelis argue among themselves about the issues surrounding settlement.
It is common to distinguish neighborhoods of Jerusalem from other settlements in the West Bank, and to distinguish the major settlements, or those on the Israeli side of the barriers, from isolated settlements. Each cluster has those who support it, but not others.
There are also those who support the right of Jews to live where they want, and criticize Palestinians for their lack of hospitality to Jews, but are not happy about individual Jewish families, with the financial support of overseas activists, to move into the most hostile of Arab areas. From this perspective, rights are one thing, but provocation is something else, especially when it is likely to involve the State of Israel in spending resources and risking the lives of its police and soldiers to protect individuals motivated by what qualifies as political and religious extremism.
There are similar divisions about the insistence of Jews to pray on the Temple Mount. Here freedom of worship comes up against Muslim insistence that the site has always been theirs alone. Leaving aside that historical nonsense, the issue is complicated by Rabbinical rulings that Jews avoid that piece of holy ground.
Not a few American Jews and others have signed on to Obama's enthusiasm for Palestine, some of whom feel that Israel destroyed too much and killed too many in Gaza. That may qualify for another kind of extremism, i.e., showing excessive concern for Israel's moral purity without comparing it to the practices of other countries. Among the candidates, America's carpet bombing of Vietnam, and the recent relaxation of rules about avoiding civilian casualties in Syria and Iraq.
Israel is subject to judgments that are not comparative, and thus meaningless both intellectually and morally. It may have something to do with being the Promised Land and the reputed source of all that is holy. The US, in contrast, is pretty much invulnerable to criticism, given its power, its veto in the UN Security Council, and its people's sense of being superior to all others. Roots of American superiority go back to Puritans who thought of their colonies as the Promised Land, and the later fascination with Manifest Destiny.
One can expect that humanitarians of the world will be less assiduous about measuring the collateral damage done by US attacks against ISIS than Israel's attacks against Hamas.
Both Israel and the United States receive more than their share of attention from international media. One can boast or be worried about the attention, but there is it. Israel and the US are more at the focus of public opinion than other places, but the world does not yet run according to an ongoing referendum.
Israel and Bibi are more dependent on the US and Barack Obama, than Obama is on them, but the dependence is not complete. Bibi, like other Israeli Prime Ministers before him, have said, "No," or not entirely "Yes" to American demands. Tensions prevail due to contrasting constraints, but there are significant pressures keeping the two countries aligned, more or less.