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Happy Netanyahu Day « The Washington Independent

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is in Washington for his first head-of-state meeting with the Obama administration. He’ll be at the White House meeting with President Obama later this morning. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton will host a working dinner for him tonight. The basic dynamic at work is that the Obama administration supports a two-state solution — that is, the birth of a Palestinian state alongside Israel — while Netanyahu fudges the question and indicates that he doesn’t. Given Israel’s reliance on America, Netanyahu’s primary diplomatic challenge will be to tell Obama ‘no’ without actually telling Obama ‘no.’

Similarly, it’s not in Obama’s interest — nor is it his style — to kick Netanyahu in the ribs on a two-state solution during their first meeting. Noah Pollak writes at Commentary that Obama’s remarks to Newsweek about the diplomatic interplay between America and Israel on Iran indicate a lack of desire for a “public confrontation,” and that seems in keeping with the way Obama’s operated in office. That will require acceptance from Netanyahu of this:

I think that there is the ability of an Islamic Republic of Iran to maintain its Islamic character while, at the same time, being a member in good standing of the international community and not a threat to its neighbors. And we are going to reach out to them and try to shift off of a pattern over the last 30 years that hasn’t produced results in the region.

Obama said at his second presser that his administration would emphasize the diplomatic virtues of patience with respect to, among other foreign policy problems, Iran. Whether Netanyahu can accept that is an open question. According to Jeffrey Goldberg in The New York Times, Netanyahu is a deeply paranoid man who thinks that Israel is in constant danger of destruction. Somehow Goldberg thinks this is justifiable when placed in the broader context of the Jewish experience, yet paranoiacs rarely make for great leaders.

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