Maureen Dowd : Bibi’s Blooper

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

So, Barack Obama can lose his temper without a teleprompter.  And we have the supremely aggravating Bibi Netanyahu to thank for that…..Obama is so unpopular in Israel that he has nothing to lose by smacking our ally for its egregious treatment of the vice president.  Joe Biden, the great champion of Israel, was humiliated when Israel used the occasion of his visit to defy America and announce a plan for 1,600 more homes in the disputed East Jerusalem area.  Israeli conservatives figured the American Eagle was toothless given that Obama had already backed down once on settlements.  But the president has a lot to gain with Arabs disillusioned by the failure of the pre-emptive Nobel Prize winner to make good on his vaunted Cairo promise to resolve the Palestinian issue.  Besides, there is no love lost between the Israeli prime minister and Obama’s aides, Rahm Emanuel and David Axelrod — ever since Bibi obnoxiously labeled them “self-hating Jews” last summer.  The president and his inner circle are appalled at Israel’s self-absorption and its failure to notice that America is not only protecting Israel from Iran, fighting wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, but also dealing with a miasma of horrible problems at home.  And Israel insults the Obama administration over a domestic zoning issue that has nothing to do with its security?  “That’s not how you treat your best friend,” said one Obama official.

During the campaign, Obama told The Atlantic’s Jeffrey Goldberg that “being a friend to Israel is partly to hold up a mirror and tell the truth,” to save them from themselves when they mindlessly let settlement gluttony scuttle any chance of peace…..For the fundamentalist rabbis who run Israel’s working-class, ultra-Orthodox Sephardic Shas Party, the new houses represent earmarks…..“It’s not entirely clear to me that the Shas Party knows who Joe Biden is or cares,” Jeffrey Goldberg told me.  “They have very narrow theological interests that don’t conform to the theological interests of American Jews,” he continued.  “The high-tech entrepreneurs of Tel Aviv relate to the Shas Party about as well as the Jews of the Upper West Side relate to the Tea Party.  The Shas Party is not overly attuned to the American-Israel relationship or the peace process.”  Goldberg also points out that “what most right-wing Israelis don’t understand is that even American Jews — especially the nearly 80 percent who voted for Obama — disaggregate what is in the best interest of Israel from what is in the best interest of the settlers.”  Obama knows that Jews no longer speak with one voice.  That gives him enough room to keep the heat on Netanyahu.  But the president’s smackdown also obscures the fact that the administration has no real strategy for peace and no impressive team below Hillary and Biden pushing for peace…..The Iranian mullahs must be laughing at the Americans and Israelis arguing about who insulted whom, while they are busy screwing their nuclear bombs together.

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