As Bad As It Gets

As Bad As It Gets

Gilbert N. Kahn is a professor of Political Science at Kean University.

When Tom Friedman in the New York Times, Brett Stephens in the Wall Street Journal and Jeff Goldberg in the Atlantic Magazine all more or less suggest that the U.S-Israel relationship has become dangerously dysfunctional, then something indeed must be seriously wrong in both Jerusalem and Washington.  While most observers recognize the personality disrespect which exists between Obama and Netanyahu, there was a general belief that their personal dislike remained under control.  After the back and forth name-calling in less than 48 hours, there is good reason to suggest that there are problems between these allies which run much deeper and are more pervasive than had been assumed.

While it was clear already for years that many in the Netanyahu Government– including the Prime Minister himself– did not like the President and his approach to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict–few people actually understood how much distrust existed within the Obama Administration towards Israel. To actually use the terms that Goldberg indicated were expressed in speaking about Netanyahu–even if many might suggest these opinions were correct–suggests a willingness on the part of White House officials to let the relationship actual founder at least for a while.

Name calling is cheap on both sides. Name calling in public reflects ill on the speakers. It also exposes a Government which tolerates and permits its members to be grossly ill-spoken and diplomatically obtuse in their speech; yet that is precisely what has transpired between these so-called friends. Sadly, the substantive roots and causes of this animosity are lost in the animus and the rhetoric which pervades the entre atmosphere. 

For the President who is being criticized in many circles for his current managerial inadequacies even with respect to his mishandling of the Ebola crisis, one week before the mid-term election is hardly the time to have yourself and your team being reported as being verbally out of control. Not to disregard Netanyahu’s pique at being called names in public, but the result of this disclosure only renders encouragement and support to the very factions in Israel which Bibi already could not control. In addition, ironically for Netanyahu, this contretemps, at this time, could contribute to persuading voters next Tuesday in some key states to vote against Obama's Party.  It could be a tipping point in swinging some voters in key Senate elections into the Republican column; which is exactly what Bibi wanted. All of which Netanyahu could never have accomplished without the help of the White House and some of the President's frustrated staffers. 

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