Commentary Magazine


RE: Why Didn’t Obama Call Off the Ambush?

Noah Pollak makes a fair point: President Obama should have told the leaders of Egypt and Turkey not to turn next week’s nuclear summit in Washington into a forum for bashing Israel. Nevertheless, I am still concerned about Prime Minister Netanyahu’s decision not to attend.

U.S.-Israeli relations are as bad as they have been in decades; perhaps ever. The fault is mainly Obama’s. I believe Netanyahu has been right not to ban the construction of new Jewish housing in East Jerusalem — a concession that might come at the end of negotiations with the Palestinians but should not be a starting point. (Actually, it’s not even clear whether Netanyahu could ban such construction under any circumstances, given the nature of the conservative coalition that keeps him in office.) Still, Israel cannot afford to draw too far away from the United States, its only reliable friend.

The nuclear summit next week will be marked by a good deal of blather and no significant action — a hallmark of this administration. In any case, it’s a pet project of the president, who is already steamed enough at Bibi. By refusing to attend, Netanyahu risks exacerbating the growing feud with Obama. I find it hard to accept his explanation that he would not go because the Egyptians and Turks would make the Israeli nuclear program an issue. Netanyahu is one of the world’s most accomplished debaters. Surely he would be able to deflect their accusations and turn attention where it belongs — toward Iran’s nuclear program.