Monday, November 9, 2009

Obama and Netanyahu: Not Pals

Aluf Benn, a serious journalist at Haaretz, has some cool words to say about Netanyahu's rising sense of confidence about facing down Obama:
Netanyahu may be an experienced diplomat and politician, and Obama may be a novice, but Obama is the president of a superpower, and Netanyahu represents a small country that depends greatly on the United States. It sometimes appears that Netanyahu forgets this, and pretends he is the head of a superpower, for example when he identifies himself with Winston Churchill, or in declaring that the Israeli mind will free the world of oil dependency in a decade.
This is of course true, and needs to be kept firmly in mind at all times. The fact that the Obama administration clearly does not yet understand the real world out here (I'm not talking about the internal American scene, where the jury's still out), doesn't change the fact that for the next three or seven years, the Obama administration will be the single most important and powerful actor on the international scene, and also extraordinarily important for Israel. Maybe they'll learn. Even if they don't, Obama will be re-elected or not because of domestic issues, not his relationship with us.

There is however also the flip side of the coin. In seven years at the latest Obama will be packing. As will his successor in 15 years at the most. And that one's successor, in 23 years. At which time, Israel will still be in this highly volatile neighborhood.

Most political leaders most of the time cannot ever make decisions which will reverberate much beyond the term of their successor. Can anyone think of anything Helmut Schmidt did that makes any difference today? Does anyone even remember who Helmut Schmidt was? John Major? Romano Prodi? Bill Clinton? (Oops. Sorry).

The prime minister of Israel has in his (or her) power to make decisions which will directly impact on the Jewish existence in the 24th century; the status of Jerusalem being merely the most obvious of them. We've been around for a very long time, and are in for the long haul. No Israeli leader should ever make historical decisions for an immediate political reason alone. It must fit in to the long term, too.


Barry Meislin said...

Bibi must be very careful here.

(Which is, of course, a contradiction in terms.)

On the other hand, the coming conflagration may well be unavoidable, and the Obama regime has, in spite of his forked tongue, made its position more than clear (for anyone who has bothered to look with unblinkered eyes):

Viz., that the Israel Lobby must be brought to heel once and for all...

...and it's no coincidence that in jettisoning this particular ally, the American regime has put all (purported) American allies on notice, as well as America herself, and her values and her interests.

No, no coincidence....even if those ch as earnest "American Interest" gurus such as Walt and Mearsheimer or Jimmy Carter(!) may fail(!!) to discern it.

Barry Meislin said...

Should be "...even if those earnest..."

Empress Trudy said...

Israel is not so creepingly dependent as first assumed. For instance, what say you Israel completely abandon the F-35 program and all the billions of dollars and American jobs that requires? It's not shock that useful idiots like Tom Friedman repeat PA talking points and suggest that the US cut all aid from Israel. Fine; so let's do that. See where it goes. Israel's next generation warships will be German not American, for example. What if the next generation IAF fighters are Rafales or Eurofighters or Saabs?

Yaacov said...

The fighters would probably be Russian, not Swede, since the Swedes are even more dainty than the most delicate Americans; the Russians care only about power and money. Also, the Russians have been trying to sell fighter jets to Israel since the early 1990s.

The Europeans, however, would be very happy to sell Airbuses to El Al and Arkia instead of Boeings. Back in 1998 or 1999, last time Israel was about to place a large order for airliners, the Americans turned apoplectic when it appeared (for about two days) as if Israel would go to Airbus.

Dimitry said...

Actually, going with Migs makes a lot of sense. We already replace much of the electronics in American planes anyway, so that would take care of the Russian disadvantage. As to avionics -- Migs are no wrse and in many respects better than the American counterparts. The problem is the shift to other platform would entail much research and adjustments on our part. There is also the chace for a home developed planes as well. We are not in the days of Lavi when we were completely dependant on US in this respect. But again, none of this is going to happen. The two states are too intertwined and too co-depenadnt.

Soccer Dad said...

My sense is that Bibi's been a lot more deferential to President Obama than he was to President Clinton. I didn't fault him for it at the time, but when Clinton was President, Netanyahu would come to America and speak to groups who were hostile to Clinton. It might be as some administration official gloated in Jan 1998 to the WaPo that Clinton was practicing "snub diplomacy" with Netanyahu, but Bibi contributed to the administraiton's pique. I don't see that happening as much now, as Netanyahu has been rather restrained (from what I can tell) at outright slights by the Obama administration.

Avigdor said...

As to avionics -- Migs are no wrse and in many respects better than the American counterparts.

That's simply not true. I know someone involved in Soviet aeronautics R&D, who worked on the Tu-144 (Soviet equivalent of Concorde) and other projects for Tupolev. The way he put it to me was this. You have a piece of material, a piece of steel, let's say. The Americans could make it lighter, cheaper, more stress tolerant and could derive more thrust out of it. They would receive plans "by parachute" (meaning the KGB would send them stolen plans) for some American project and they would just be beating their heads against the wall. They had the intellectual capability, but the industry just did not exist - metallurgy, high technology, microprocessors, superconductors, these things just did not exist in the Soviet Union.

Things are even worse today. The main aerospace bureaus are still using 1980s plans. They're bankrupt, their lead engineers and senior talent have retired, and these are the kinds of people that take decades to mature through advanced engineering disciplines.

Israel and the US are tied at the hip economically, militarily, socially, culturally and politically in very serious, profound ways, and more so, not less.

You would have to be on the moon to not have realized that since September Obama is pulling a major reversal on his disastrous Israeli policy of early summer. By attacking Israel on settlements, the Americans forced Abbas and the PA to take an even stronger position than they needed to earlier. Now that the Americans have backed down on settlements, the secular Arabs are left hanging between open capitulation to Israel and the Islamists or rejecting negotiation and ruining their relations with the Americans. This is not a great scenario for the "peace process", and it was completely avoidable - Obama created it and he owns it.

Obama backed down on settlements for a simple reason. His diplomacy is not working! If anything, things are getting worse. The Arabs think he is weak and won't give him the time of day. The Syrians are playing games. Turkey is executing a major negative transformation in its relations with the West that Obama is powerless to stop. The Iranians are beginning to think their nuclear program is all but guaranteed to succeed. Who is left? Israel is the only real ally the Americans have. As Obama pulls troops out of Iraq and has to deal with a region more hostile to American interests than in recent memory, it only makes sense to strengthen the only reliable strategic alliance the Americans have.

Netanyahu is also contributing by eliminating any public difference between the US and Israeli positions on Iran.

Everything will be fine. Stop kvetching. The only regional challenge that really matters at this point is Iran, Iran, Iran. Negotiations are not working. The Americans are edging closer to the military option and you better believe if there is a war and all hell goes loose in the Middle East, the last thing America will be doing is asking how many Jewish families moved into Maale Adumim.

Barry Meislin said...

One admires the optimism, indeed wishes it were justified.

However, the reality (such as it is), is otherwise.

And things can only get worse.

Though I suppose one may spin this as good for Israel---if in fact the stark truth cuts through all the delusions and lies that proliferate in this region (and beyond).

And it is stark.