Two Ha’aretz columnists discuss reports that President Obama declined a request from Benjamin Netanyahu for a face-to-face meeting when the Israeli prime minister visits the United States to attend the UN General Assembly:
An isolated Israel threatens its most dependable ally
It’s not every day that the prime minister of an isolatedIsrael issues what amounts to an ultimatum to his most dependable, most indispensable ally. It’s not every day that an Israeli prime minister who by geopolitical necessity must be scrupulously neutral in an American presidential race tailors his moves to the campaign of one party at the expense of the other.
And it’s not every day that the prime minister of an Israel whose very security depends on close cooperation with the White House appears to work angles to try to see an incumbent president defeated — for example, announcing just at the climax of the Republican convention his intention to go to the UN to tell the world of the dangers of Iran’s nuclear program.
Only, in the case of Benjamin Netanyahu and his staff, it has been literally every day.
‘Refusing to meet Netanyahu is a mistake’
[R]efusing to meet Netanyahu is a mistake. Even if it’s not an outright refusal, but just a problem of venues and timetables, the decision is still a blunder. It is a political mistake, because many American Jews, even those who otherwise take a dim view of Netanyahu and his policies, are bound to be offended. On the back of the Jerusalem brouhaha at the recent Democratic National Convention, some American-Jewish voters might take umbrage from such a slight and find that the president’s attitude toward Israel is indeed, as his detractors claim, somewhat lacking.
Not only is it a political mistake but a practical one, too, when considering the Israeli public. Israelis might be affronted, whether they are supporters or detractors of Bibi, and they might also reach conclusions that run contrary to White House intentions. Yes, many will blame Netanyahu for needlessly inflaming tensions with the U.S. president, but they may also reach the conclusion, nonetheless, that Israel has been left truly alone and must therefore take matters into its own hands.