Commentary Magazine


Obama’s Pressure Won’t Undermine Bibi

As the Obama administration continues trying to pressure the Israeli government to make drastic concessions on territory before those talks even begin, they are hoping that domestic critics will chime in to force Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu to give in. But the idea that his resistance to Obama’s dictates will undermine Netanyahu at home has always been misplaced. Today’s special session of the Knesset in which opposition leader Tzipi Livni carped about the prime minister is just another example of why Netanyahu remains in the catbird seat vis-à-vis both Washington and the Israeli left.

The problem for Livni, as well as for Obama, is that Israelis understand two things: 1. That Netanyahu, like all his predecessors, has accepted a two-state solution and would give up territory in order to achieve one. 2. That the Palestinian Authority, both before and after its unity pact with the Hamas terrorists is utterly incapable of accepting the legitimacy of a Jewish state in a peace accord no matter where its borders would be drawn and will never formally end the conflict. Palestinian intransigence destroyed Israel’s left and Obama’s brutal attitude toward the Jewish state has only reinforced Netanyahu’s position. Today Netanyahu outlined to the Knesset again the same framework that earned dozens of standing ovations when he spoke of it to the United States Congress last month.

That leaves Livni with no leg to stand on when she claims Netanyahu is wrong on the peace process. Since she cannot accept the Obama administration’s stands on the 1967 borders or Jerusalem anymore than he can and is worried about associating herself too closely with an American president who is deeply unpopular in Israel, all she can do is make personal attacks on Netanyahu.

Netanyahu seems to understand that like his feckless opposition at home, Obama’s position is oblivious to the reality of the deadlock with the Palestinians. When Netanyahu asked Livni today whether or not she agreed that the Palestinians must accept the legitimacy of a Jewish state, all she could muster in reply was to say “Netanyahu won’t solve the conflict” and that “Netanyahu just wants to stay prime minister.” But since she has no more of a clue about convincing the Palestinians to make peace than he and is solely motivated by her own desire to be prime minister, the Obama administration needs to understand that they are stuck dealing with the increasingly popular Netanyahu for the foreseeable future.