There’s also likely some domestic politics at play.
Netanyahu, who had been friends for decades with Obama’s Republican presidential challenger, Mitt Romney, made no secret of his pro-Romney leanings. Additionally, Republicans have long sought to siphon reliably Democratic Jewish voters from Obama, criticizing him for not visiting Israel in his first term and underscoring his strained relations with Netanyahu.
“Cynically, you could make the case even if there’s no prospect of serious peacemaking, it’s good domestic politics for the Obama administration to improve the cosmetics of its relationship with Israel,” said David Mack, a Middle East Institute scholar and a former U.S. ambassador to the United Arab Emirates.
Both in Syria and Iran, Israelis have pressed for a more muscular response. The United States has warned Syrian President Bashar Assad that it views the use of chemical weapons against rebels as a “red line” for possible military intervention. But Israel’s threshold for taking action – as illustrated last week with an Israeli airstrike on Syria – appears to be lower, and aimed at a wider variety of potential threats.
Likewise, the two countries share unease about Iran’s nuclear weapons ambitions, though Netanyahu has pressed the administration publicly to take a harder line against the threat posed by the nuclear program. Obama has said he hasn’t ruled out calling for military action to prevent Iran from securing a nuclear weapon.
But in March 2012, he urged Israel and its supporters to refrain from “loose talk of war” and allow diplomacy and “crippling sanctions” to work.
David Goldstein of the Washington Bureau contributed.