Does Bibi Care About Improving His Relations With Obama?
Gilbert N. Kahn is a professor of Political Science at Kean University.
It was not enough that the U.S. and Israel are at loggerheads over Iran policy, over Israeli interference in American internal partisan politics or over the declining bi-partisan congressional support for Israel, enter Netanyahu’s rejecting a two state solution and race baiting of Israeli Arabs’ voting behavior. Now Netanyahu is trying to revise history and suggest that what he said he did not mean and he apologizes for saying it.
There are two distinct observations which emerge from all this doubletalk. One of them is the nature of politics and political campaigns while the other is substantive. From the perspective of the Israeli body politic, flip-flopping on the two state solution was clearly an effective tactical strategy which Netanyahu adopted to secure his right wing electoral base. Whether he truly believes in a two-state solution or not, or whether his 2009 Bar-Ilan speech is what he believes, or whether his pre-election position is a more honest picture of his vision for the future must be seen as political gamesmanship. Events over the next several years will determine where any of this discussion with the Palestinians will move and whether Bibi and the Israeli people will support a two-state solution or will opt to suffer the consequences of growing geopolitical isolation.
As for Bibi’s anti-Arab fear mongering to arouse his political base on Election Day, walking those remarks back as he thought he could accomplish yesterday was totally inadequate. Ultimately, he will or will not sincerely reach out to Israeli Arabs from the strength of his new electoral base, or he will alienate even more of the entire country (and the world) which still believes that Israel must confirm to fundamental democratic values for all its citizens.
What is totally incomprehensible is that given the mess he is in with White House and given the especially heightened, sensitivity of the Obama Administration to anything that smacks of racism, Bibi should have opted for a far grander and more sincere demonstration of contrition for his Election Day remarks. While this too will pass, given the fact that he recognized that he needed to make apologies for what he had said—and given the fact that he won the election—Netanyahu could have chosen to express regret for his remarks and coupled them with definite, specific pledges extended to Israeli Arabs and their leaders. This might even have moved Israeli Arabs, his domestic opposition, and the Obama Administration.