Commentary Magazine


Contentions

Bibi and Obama: Who’s the One Being Disrespected?

Benjamin Netanyahu has a well-earned reputation as a prickly and not particularly likable man. But the effort on the part of some writers to brand his reply to President Obama’s speech on the Middle East yesterday as showing “disrespect” is the height of absurdity.

That’s the line that the Atlantic’s Jeffrey Goldberg took today when he slammed Netanyahu for saying that he “expects to hear a reaffirmation from President Obama of U.S. commitments made to Israel in 2004, which were overwhelmingly supported by both House of Congress.” According to Goldberg, who is now also being echoed by John R. Guardino at the American Spectator, Netanyahu is being uppity. Vassal states, even ones Americans (including those two writers) support, have no business “expecting” anything from their suzerain, the president of the United States. To their way of thinking, an Israeli leader talking back to Obama is “disrespectful.” How dare he tell Obama that he has violated past promises—past American promises—in order to place extra pressure on Israel to surrender territory, even though we all know that the Palestinians have no intention of making peace no matter where Israel’s borders are drawn? If Obama is inclined to treat the Jewish state cavalierly, then I suppose Netanyahu should just say, “Thank you, sir. May I please have another?”

To compare Netanyahu’s answer to the sort of anti-American slanders of a Hugo Chavez or the transparent lies of Pakistani officials who claim to have had no knowledge of the whereabouts of Osama bin Laden, as Goldberg does, is more than a bit over the top.

But both Goldberg and Guardino are ignoring the context of a dispute that was carefully planned by the White House to show disrespect to Netanyahu. The president’s inclusion of a passage proclaiming the sanctity of the 1967 lines in a speech otherwise intended to deal with the Arab Spring revolts on the day before Netanyahu arrived in the United States for a visit was more than just “awkward” as Goldberg put it. It was a clear provocation aimed at embarrassing the Israeli.

They are also forgetting that this is not the first time that Barack Obama has picked a pointless fight with Israel during his presidency. Obama threw a monkey wrench into the already stalled peace process in 2009 by insisting on a unilateral concession from Israel in the form of a settlement freeze. Obama’s goal was to destabilize Netanyahu’s government but all he accomplished was to convince the Palestinians there was no reason for them to negotiate as long as Obama was hammering the Israelis. A year later, Obama picked a fight over building homes in existing Jewish neighborhoods in Jerusalem and then personally insulted Netanyahu when he came to the White House to talk it over.

Israel needs the United States and its leaders are obligated to speak and act respectfully towards the president. But there is a difference between “disrespect” and an ally reminding the president that broken promises won’t be ignored. Respect goes two ways and Obama, a leader who has a history of cavalierly dismissing the sensibilities of American allies, cannot pretend that he is the injured party here. Having picked this fight in a particularly undiplomatic manner, Obama has no business playing the victim.



Join the discussion…

Are you a subscriber? Log in to comment »

Not a subscriber? Join the discussion today, subscribe to Commentary »





Welcome to Commentary Magazine.
We hope you enjoy your visit.
As a visitor to our site, you are allowed 8 free articles this month.
This is your first of 8 free articles.

If you are already a digital subscriber, log in here »

Print subscriber? For free access to the website and iPad, register here »

To subscribe, click here to see our subscription offers »

Please note this is an advertisement skip this ad
Clearly, you have a passion for ideas.
Subscribe today for unlimited digital access to the publication that shapes the minds of the people who shape our world.
Get for just
YOU HAVE READ OF 8 FREE ARTICLES THIS MONTH.
FOR JUST
YOU HAVE READ OF 8 FREE ARTICLES THIS MONTH.
FOR JUST
Welcome to Commentary Magazine.
We hope you enjoy your visit.
As a visitor, you are allowed 8 free articles.
This is your first article.
You have read of 8 free articles this month.
YOU HAVE READ 8 OF 8
FREE ARTICLES THIS MONTH.
for full access to
CommentaryMagazine.com
INCLUDES FULL ACCESS TO:
Digital subscriber?
Print subscriber? Get free access »
Call to subscribe: 1-800-829-6270
You can also subscribe
on your computer at
CommentaryMagazine.com.
LOG IN WITH YOUR
COMMENTARY MAGAZINE ID
Don't have a CommentaryMagazine.com log in?
CREATE A COMMENTARY
LOG IN ID
Enter you email address and password below. A confirmation email will be sent to the email address that you provide.