When Benjamin Netanyahu returned to the Israeli premiership in 2009, it looked like he had a precarious grasp on power and Barack Obama had a commanding one -- not just domestically, but internationally. So when Obama came out the gate pushing the peace process, I thought that Netanyahu's challenge would be to tell Obama "no" without seeming to tell him "no." And when acrimony developed between the two leaders, it seemed like Obama's game plan might have been to weaken Netanyahu until his coalition cracked and Tzipi Livni replaced him, ready to work with Obama and Abbas on a two-state solution.
Wrongest. Analysis. Ever.
Obama has been repeatedly punked by Netanyahu. And Netanyahu is running the game plan I thought Obama was running on him: reaching out to the GOP to weaken Obama's hold on power. In his new tenure as PM, it's been the one political move that Netanyahu's pulled off brilliantly.
But it's an absolute disaster for Israel. One of Obama's first acts in office, my friend Eli "Beast of All Daily Beasts" reveals, was to secretly give Israel bunker-buster bombs that it had long sought. That's a fact that should change people's analysis of Obama's tenure. It's also one that makes Obama look straight-up reckless -- the bombs, as Eli writes, could easily be interpreted as a U.S. green light on an Israeli attack on Iran. What would happen when, after such a hypothetical attack, the Iranians noticed the bomb fragments and traced the weaponry back to the United States?
And all this was happening, in secret, while Obama issued (unrequited) treaties to the Iranian regime for negotiations. No one can ever credibly claim Obama took a military option off the table. He did way more than keep it on the table, he shipped it to Tel Aviv.
Back to Netanyahu. So here comes this shipment of bunker-busters, from the patron to the client. Netanyahu opens the package. And then a card comes in the mail. Hey, it reads, now we need you to stop settlement construction. That's what Abbas needs to come back to the table. And Netanyahu says: Nah, fuck Obama. Not only does Netanyahu refuse, but he cynically repurposes Obama's "negotiations without preconditions" line to mean that he's ready to talk only under conditions that Abbas cannot take back to the Palestinians and look like a credible peacemaker. It's a lot like saying that you're perfectly welcome to come over for dinner, as long as you don't mind watching me fuck your wife.
You know the rest. And if you don't, Antony Blinken will remind you. If you have any doubt of Abbas's extraordinary willingness to make peace, then I urge you to read my friend Clayton Swisher's acquisition of the Palestine Papers -- internal documents showing a Palestinian Authority that's practically abject in its pursuit of a statehood deal. There's a reason why Ehud Olmert warned this week that Israel will not always have a Palestinian partner so committed to peace.
Netanyahu has endangered all of that, through a short-sighted and juvenile willingness to hold out for absolutely everything and give the Palestinians nothing but a middle finger and a smile. And as long as Obama doesn't put genuine pressure on Netanyahu, he's letting Netanyahu get away with it. Netanyahu knows that time is on his side with the United States if only the GOP returns to the White House; American support, particularly from conservative evangelicals, can counteract the demographic slide that ensures continued Israeli dominion over the West Bank will become apartheid-like.
This is not a strategy that presumes a pursuit of peace. It's a strategy for the continued injustice of occupation, which troubles the mind of Netanyahu not at all, and his coalition partners' even less.