Bill Quandt, a member of the National Security Council during the Nixon and Carter administrations, does not usually “give high marks to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.” He said as much himself, right after giving Netanyahu high marks for the way he has been dealing with the current US administration over the past few weeks. We sat down for an hourlong chat on Tuesday [Sept. 10] shortly before the start of the Yom Kippur War Conference, which brought him to Israel for a brief visit. We talked mostly about President Barack Obama, Syria, Russia and Netanyahu.
“He doesn’t say a lot, and that’s a wise move,” Quandt said about Netanyahu. He then moved on to what he described as “an interesting philosophical question”: Do governments behave generously toward one another because of “favors that were done in the past, or because of favors that they hope to receive in the future”? It’s a relevant question, because Israel has been going above and beyond what one might have expected over the past few weeks in its efforts to maintain the US president’s dignity as he stumbles his way through the minefield that is the Syrian crisis. Not only is it preserving his dignity. It is actually helping him, whether it is through the advice that it gives him, or whether it is with a wink and a nod, which makes it easier for Israel’s Jewish friends in America to take action in Congress in support of the president.