Did Bibi blow it?


The New York Jewish Week’s editor, Gary Rosenblatt, thinks that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu badly misplayed his response to last week’s President Obama’s Mideast policy speech.

Rosenblatt argues that “Bibi should have responded positively to the speech instead of reinforcing his image that he rather than Abbas is the Mideast’s Mr. No.”

Instead, Rosenblatt writes:

…Bibi’s response — asserting that the pre-`67 borders were “indefensible” without acknowledging Obama’s reference to land swaps — echoed the famous resolution of the Arab League summit following the 1967 Arab-Israeli war. Known as “The Three No’s” — no peace with Israel, no recognition of Israel, no negotiations with Israel — they indicated to the world the Arabs’ refusal to accept the reality of a Jewish state in the region.

The final communique of the summit insisted on the Palestinians’ right to all of Palestine and commitment to destroy the State of Israel. There are those who say the Palestinians’ intentions have not changed. But Bibi didn’t give the world a chance to see that Abbas and his new partner, Hamas, barely able to talk to each other, are hardly prepared to negotiate with Israel.

Bibi’s swift and blunt rejection of Obama’s plan set the two leaders on a confrontational path that only later the prime minister backed away from, saying their differences had been overblown. But first impressions last the longest, and what the White House, the international community and the media picked up on this week was that Israel is saying “no” to the U.S. plan.

Meanwhile, The Atlantic’s Jeffrey Goldberg was enraged, first by Netanyahu’s initial response to Obama’s speech and then by the Israeli prime minister’s remarks in his Oval Office news conference with Obama.

But Elliott Abrams of the Council on Foreign Relations thinks that Netanyahu responded “cleverly” and that Obama is the one who has treated his ally shabbily.

Abrams writes that the approach the president planned on taking in his speech should have:

been discussed with the Israelis instead of being dumped on their heads this morning with zero advance notice or warning or explanation, leaving them scrambling to figure out what it all meant. That alone suggests that whatever the “balanced” rhetoric, the administration persists in treating Israel as a problem rather than as an ally. The Israelis, by the way, responded cleverly to the president’s speech: Their statement said, “Prime Minister Netanyahu expects to hear a reaffirmation from President Obama of U.S. commitments made to Israel in 2004, which were overwhelmingly supported by both Houses of Congress.” Remember those posters with a photo of Bush and the caption “Miss me yet?” We know the Israeli answer.

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