Prime Minister Netanyahu responded to President Obama’s criticism by declaring that “only the citizens of Israel will decide who will best serve the vital interests of the state of Israel.” This is absolutely true, except that one of the most vital interests of Israel is the strong bond with the United States, expressed, among other things, by close relationship between the leaders of the two countries.
Indeed, American presidents have occasionally been furious with Israel, but after awhile, reason on both sides as well as diplomacy prevailed. This time, however, the friction seems a bit more problematic than the previous ones.
If anything should really bother Israelis, it’s that Obama, according to Jeffrey Goldberg, has become indifferent to Netanyahu. That is alarming indeed. It’s better to have an angry president who cares about Israel, and still wants to have a dialogue, than a president who seems like he has had just about enough of the Jewish state and its conduct.
Assuming that Netanyahu is reelected next week, his urgent goal will be to rehabilitate his relationship with Obama — a second-term president, not in need of anyone to be reelected. After all, the clock of the Iranian nuclear threat is still ticking, and Israel shouldn’t be left alone in that arena with a confrontational American president.
The same goes for anti-Israeli motions in the United Nations: Who says an American veto is a given anymore?
In tackling this issue, Netanyahu will have to consider what kind of coalition he forms: A right-wing one, which will push for more settlements and subsequently might only widen the gap between him and Obama; or a more centrist one, which will indicate to Washington that he still stands by his 2009 Bar Ilan speech, namely, for a two-state solution.
By opting for the latter, by the way, he will subscribe to the will of two-thirds of Israelis, regardless of how they cast their votes next Tuesday.
Uri Dromi is a columnist based in Jerusalem.