Obama and Netanyahu: Who Is the Gambler?

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Yoaz Hendel examines the relationship between President Obama and Prime Minister Netanyahu, and what it might mean for US-Israel relations with Obama’s re-election.

Which of them is good for the Jews?

In his heart, Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu would rather see Romney sitting across him at the White House. People, like countries, tend to associate with those smiling at them. Deep down, Netanyahu would rather enlist on behalf of Romney and help him get elected, get rid of Obama’s sourness and do away with their tense relations. There are many devices in a man's heart, and many are the wishes entertained by the prime minister; however, Netanyahu has never given voice in public to either his tactics or his desires.

Contrary to the claims by his rivals, Netanyahu has never made a wager on Romney. Netanyahu is not the betting type (even though Sheldon Adelson, one of the biggest donors to Romney’s campaign as well as to that of Netanyahu, is himself a casino mogul). You cannot on one hand criticize Netanyahu for always vacillating, never able to make up his mind, and on the other condemn him as a daredevil gambler who does not think twice about taking risks. The two just don’t go together.

Netanyahu has found himself at odds with Obama against his will. The man who would rather not rock the boat, no matter what, whatever the issue on the agenda, has inadvertently found himself caught in the eye of the storm. The tense, overwrought relations are not his making. The assailant and his victim should not be confused. In fact, it’s none other than Obama who favored Cairo over Jerusalem. It is Obama himself who let the media into the White House to take his photo with his legs on his desk, talking with the prime minister of Israel.

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And it was Obama who forced the right-wing prime minister to freeze all settlements in the territories, for no good reason and without any real hope for progress, just to show who was in control here, who had the upper hand and could thus bend the other to his will. Obama has been a problematic president not only for Netanyahu personally, but for the State of Israel. And while officially, the American support for Israel carried on as before, the affinity for Israel was no longer there. The pattern of relations forged in the early days of Obama in office has not changed throughout his tenure. There has been no betting and no gambling — merely the routine management of affairs.

The visit of Romney to Israel should be similarly examined. There were other presidential hopefuls who visited Israel, and one of them was Barack Obama. They were all received with due honor, according to protocol. Netanyahu gave Romney a podium the way other presidential nominees had been given. He warmly embraced him the way you would embrace someone who reciprocated in kind. Regardless of Netanyahu, Obama saw in Israel a burden rather than a strategic asset in the Middle East, and in the traditional American commitment to Israel, an established duty that had to be fulfilled, which prevented him from filling with historical content the Nobel Peace Prize awarded him.

Tomorrow morning [Nov. 7], Netanyahu will be blamed for having put our future at stake. If Romney wins the election, we will be discussing his, and our, good luck. If Obama emerges the victor, Netanyahu will be held responsible for having jeopardized the strategic relationship of Israel with the United States. The slogans are all ready for use. It may well be that another prime minister could have created a more auspicious atmosphere in the relations between Washington and Jerusalem and may have inspired more genuine smiles in front of the cameras. However,  in essence, the only gambler we have had here is Obama, the president who four years ago put the Middle East on the roulette table, dreaming of the political fortune he was going to make. By the way: looking around, the outcome does not seem to be all that impressive.

And there is more to be said about gambling. Abu Mazen is in the habit of mumbling every few months some sweet-sounding words in English. Most recently he did so in the interview with Udi Segal on Israeli TV Channel 2's news magazine. Well, it was no grand speech that we listened to, nor any declaration on the renunciation of the right of return. Rather, all we heard was his answer to the question put to him, which he was quick to retract the following day in an interview in Arabic to Egyptian TV. The majority of Israelis are aspiring to peace. However, if anyone is misled to believe that the words muttered by Abu Mazen in response to his interviewer’s query give us any hope for peace, that unfortunately, is the response of an addicted gambler.

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Found in: us, romney, obama, mahmoud abbas, israel, benjamin netanyahu
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