Commentary Magazine


Not Meeting Bibi: What Obama Is Secretly Thinking

With apologies to the late William Safire, who came up with this imaginative format:

“So Netanyahu wants to meet me when he comes to the States for the U.N. General Assembly. Of course he does. Last time he was here and we met, that arrogant SOB showed me up during our joint press availability and delivered me and America a lecture on Palestinian intransigence. Then he goes and gets dozens of standing ovations speaking before a Joint Session of Congress. He makes me look bad, I find myself with fundraising problems, and the chance that in an incredibly close election even the loss of 10,000 Jewish votes in Florida could make all the difference. And who is to blame for my difficulties? Netanyahu. He has stoked this. He has nurtured this. He has made this flower.

“Now here we are, and he wants to corner me again. He wants to talk about Iran. He knows we’re just a few weeks from the election, when it would be best for me to look really tough. But that’s not my strategy here. I want to do what I can to squeeze Iran, but I want to make sure the Iranians have wiggle room to get themselves out of the nuclear trap they’ve walked into without looking as though they’ve surrendered. What does he want? He wants me to establish ‘red lines’ for Iranian conduct that will set up a tripwire. If they cross those lines, war begins.

“Meaning a U.S. war. Bibi figures it would be best if the U.S. did Israel’s work for it, because we have all the weaponry and the long-range capability. He wants to scare me and everybody else by saying, ‘We don’t know if we Israelis can do this, can take the Iranian nuclear program out. But we’ll have to try if you don’t. We may fail. We may do badly and there may be horrible repercussions and loss of life and chaos in the Middle East and oil at $200. But I’m just crazy enough to do it.’

“I don’t think he’s crazy. I think he’s hateful. I think he wants to destroy my presidency and he doesn’t care how he does it. I think this close to the election he wants to force me into a corner I don’t want to be forced into, and get a soapbox to stand on to preach his word while I stand there mutely and say nothing.

“No way. I’m not meeting with him. Let them scream. Let Romney try to play this for votes and money. What’s done is done. I’ve raised the money I can raise and the Jewish vote will go the way the Jewish vote will go. People who really agree with him are not going to vote for me already. I figure no matter what, I can get 60 percent of the Jewish vote and that will have to do.

“Remember what I said to Medvedev? That after the election I’ll have more flexibility? Oh, am I going to flex some of that Bibi’s way. You can count on that.”