We couldn't desire better lessons on the nature of the politics than we obtain from the simultaneous and competitive appearances of the Bibi and Barack twins at the heads of their governments.
They are similar if not identical in their style, skills, limitations, and their reception by their own, one another's, and third country national audiences.
Their verbal skills are at the levels achieved earlier by Franklin D. Roosevelt, Harry Truman, John F. Kennedy, and Ronald Reagan in the US,, Menachem Begin, Shimon Peres, and Ehud Barak in Israel, and Winston Churchill elsewhere among English speakers.
Bibi is as good or better in Hebrew as in English.
Bibi and Barack resemble one another in sitting on the top of contentious polities, making and defending decisions on matters of high sensitivity and dispute, and passing the tests of re-election and political survival.
Bibi's stand against the pressure in behalf of a Palestinian state, speaking in support of settlement yet restraining the settlers as well as acting against those wanting to conquer Gaza and absorb the West Bank, and keeping a balance between religious, ultra-religious and secular Jews compares with Barack's efforts with respect to immigration, Cuba, and Iran.
There is no doubt that each is at the top of their country, attracting both intense support and intense opposition by those who are pleased or infuriated by their personal leadership of what they admire or detest.
Both are vilified as extremists, but actually operate as moderates.
Bibi has reached and stayed in power by speaking the language of settlers, those who distrust Palestinians and prioritize the security of Israel, while he has stood against those demanding a complete solution to the problem of Gaza, and has eased conditions for Palestinians of the West Bank without approaching the issue of a Palestinian state. He can be counted on to express what is politically correct with respect to the prices of housing, energy, and other items that strain the pocketbooks of Israel's middle class, but he has not moved far, if at all, from policies that recognize the balance of constraints on a small and dependent national economy.
Barack has moved to regularize diplomatic relations with Cuba, but timed his action to come after re-election. He has worked against his predecessor's deep military involvement in the Middle East, paid a price in the spread of Islamic extremism, pressed for a Palestinian-Israeli accord but backed off. Still hanging are what he will do with respect to the prospect of a Security Council resolution and a US veto, as well as an agreement with Iran about its nuclear program. It's pretty clear that there won't be a major US military operation in the Middle East (against ISIS or Iran) on his watch, but there continue to be US military operations, considerable technical aid to Israel and the Arab allies of the US, including an American ally at war with Iran or one of its clients.
One can express understanding, sympathy, intense support or intense operation to all of what stand as the prominent postures of Bibi and Barack.
In this, too, they resemble one another, and illustrate the nature of holding an office of leadership in places that get more than their share of attention outside of their borders.
What Bibi has done so far with respect to Palestinians and what Barack has done with respect to Islamic extremism and Iran are major gambles with national futures, human life, and just about all the moral norms that can be dumped into political arguments.
It's too early to make a final judgment on either. Neither are dealing with issues that can be settled with a heroic "bang and we're done."
Those wanting an end to the threat of Islam should look again at George W. Bush's accomplishments in Iraq.
Those seeing a solution for the Middle East, Jews, and the world by means of creating a Palestinian state should spend some time in a shelter along Israel's border with Gaza, take a midnight drive through the West Bank, risk a stroll through Isaweea, or listen to the lessons provided to Palestinians in their schools or mosques.
Bibi and Barack have been head to head on Palestine and Iran.
It looks like Palestine is off the front pages, pushed aside by yet another Palestinian rejection (Israel as a Jewish state) and what may be the greater influence on just about everyone of ISIS and others of its ilk.
With or without a great power agreement with Iran, and however one wants to judge Bibi's influence as a constraint, including one's judgement of his Washington speech, that issue will be a work in progress. It'll take a while to see if it's better or worse than what exists with respect to North Korea, Pakistan, India, or any other place with nuclear weapons capacity.
Similarities in styles and skills of Bibi and Barack may add a bit to the image of their competition and animosity.
Yet the claims by observers and occasional comments by themselves suggesting personal animosity are only the superficial signs of competing national interests.
For all the claims about the US and Israel standing together, they also stand apart. Their differences may be increased by recent events outside of both. The US and Israel are led to different postures by being far from and close to what is happening in this region, including the proclamations and whatever are the true aspirations of Iran's leaders.
Likewise American Jews and Israeli Jews.
An increase of what may be Israel-caused expressions of anti-Semitism make American Jews uncomfortable and may increase the opposition of some to what they perceive as Israeli settlements and refusal to move on Palestine. Israelis are inclined to see their own problems as more pressing. At least a few view their American cousins as spoiled by their wealth, possessions and feelings of safety. (Statistics show that the US is actually a more dangerous place than Israel, but that's material for another story.)
American Jews who worry about their kids on prestigious campuses that charge upwards of $40,000 per year for tuition and fees might think of Israeli parents who accompany their kids to the bus that will take them to IDF basic training.
One can wonder in similar fashion about Barack's policy toward Iran. If it is clear that he has taken the military option off the table, that comes against the damage he may see from his predecessor's excessive use of the military option, and his reluctance to get into battles with a regime on the edge of nuclear capacity and already with considerable missile capacity for conventional or nuclear warheads.
Neither Bibi nor Barack are finished, and no one is close to expressing a final word on their performance.