Hopefully Bibi is Listening

Hopefully Bibi is Listening

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

Washington has sent Israel two messages this past week both of which ought to allay some of the American Jewish community’s anxiety about the relationship between Obama and Netanyahu. They also should indicate the Administration’s desire to put the recent kerfuffle between Jerusalem and Washington behind them. While clearly motivated by the current lull in the Iran talks and timed before the final confrontation late in June, Obama’s moves were significant, both substantively and political. While Obama and Bibi are unlikely to ever be close friends or even like each other, the President has now made gestures which speak directly to the issue of the notion that “friends can have a fight and then make-up.”

First, the President invited the Prime Minister to Washington; once the Iran deal is concluded or tabled. Obama made it crystal clear in his invitation, that Bibi’s visit will not occur until after the negotiations are finished in Geneva; presumably at the end of June. The White House expressed a clear desire not to have the Prime Minister in Washington stirring up the waters on Capitol Hill and among American Jews as he did when he visited in early March.  

Second, at the Israel Independence Day celebration at the Israeli Embassy in Washington this week, Vice-President Biden reiterated what had been previously announced that Israel would receive its first shipment of the 5th generation of U.S. Joint Strike Fighter Jets, the F-35’s, in 2016.  This remark as the invitation extended by the President had the clear intention to signal Israel’s enemies or skeptics that regardless of personality differences and debates on negotiating tactics, there has been no change in the U.S.-Israeli security alliances.

These remarks also were intended to assuage any concerns that might have remained among American Jewish leadership–even after their meeting last week at the White House–as well as to Jews throughout the U.S. who were concerned as to whether there would continue to be an Obama push-back after being dissed by the Israel Prime Minister.  It presumably was a sign as well to many American Jews not to consider switching to the Republican Party over a minor political flap with Israel.  It will be crucial to watch if once Netanyahu’s new Government is in place, whether he will be willing to respond constructively to these signals from Washington. 

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