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Netanyahu Plays Nice With Obama

Call it a thank-you wave

Marc Tracy
September 26, 2011
Prime Minister Netanyahu on Meet the Press Sunday.(Meet the Press)
Prime Minister Netanyahu on Meet the Press Sunday.(Meet the Press)

Over the weekend, as President Abbas returned triumphant to the West Bank, Prime Minister Netanyahu, by contrast, stuck around for a few more days. Already, you’d be hard-pressed to find a better metonym for the two leaders’ relations to the United States. The Middle East Quartet statement calling for a resumption of talks was rejected and is now being muddled over by Abbas while it was enthusiastically greeted by Netanyahu, since it is, essentially, a restatement of his own articulated views of where the peace process should proceed. The White House dutifully sold it as such to Jewish leaders yesterday, as something that President Obama did for the Israelis. At least until November 2012, you can count on a minimum of public disagreements between these two camps, who have clearly figured out they need each other.

Prime Minister Netanyahu returned the favor, appearing on the Meet the Press and insisting he did not want to get tied up in American domestic politics—which, if you look at his actions last May, isn’t actually true, meaning it was his way of making nice with the Obama administration. “They’re all friends of Israel,” he said of the Republican presidential aspirants (as well as Obama). And he took additional care to denounce his own Likud colleague (albeit rival) Danny Danon for appearing with Gov. Perry last week.

And if you don’t think Israeli and U.S. leaders are working on their frequently acrimonious relationship, take a look at Eli Lake’s inaugural Newsweek blockbuster (bunker-buster?), reporting that the administration, through the thick and thin of the diplomatic relationship, has continued the trend of increasing military-to-military cooperation, and has even sold Israel bunker-busting bombs—weapons that would be mighty useful if Israel found itself wanting to destroy, say, underground Iranian nuclear weapons facilities. I don’t come to slight Lake’s reporting—he’s one of the very best, and some of the details concerning the hardware transacted no doubt is stuff that he, and we, aren’t supposed to know (especially since a WikiLeaks-released cable reported that neither side wanted the sales to become public). But his piece does fit into the narrative the nascent Obama re-election campaign is trying to tell when it comes to Israel, and it would make sense if that was the result of the Israelis trying to make nice with the folks who just got their backs at the U.N., and are continuing to do so with regard to the peace process.

This feels like a zany week, as opposed to the seriousness of last, so let’s close with Perry dancing with Chabad rabbis (it comes toward the end). Who said he’s a fair-weather friend?

Marc Tracy is a staff writer at The New Republic, and was previously a staff writer at Tablet. He tweets @marcatracy.