Did Howard Kohr just deliver a warning to Netanyahu?


President Obama’s relationship with the pro-Israel community has been marked often by disagreement over the "no daylight" proposition: the idea that Israel and the United States should resolve differences quietly.

Obama made clear in his first meeting as president with the Jewish leadership, in July 2009, that he didn’t think much of the tradition (which, in truth, was often honored in the breach, even by former President George W. Bush). The Obama administer rejoinder has been "Friends tell friends the truth."

Maybe so, has been the rejoinder to that rejoinder, but please do so quietly. Last year, AIPAC President Lee Rosenberg was scorching in his rebuke to Obama — a friend — for taking disagreements with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu into the public square.

This year, the no daylight reference was in Howard Kohr’s speech. But instead of being a rebuke to Obama, it was to welcome what Kohr said was the president’s effort to walk back from the latest confrontation.

Here’s the entire passage:

In the swirl of activity this week, including several speeches and a meeting between President Obama and Prime Minister Netanyahu, it is important to restate some bedrock principles about how to conduct the bilateral relationship between the United States and Israel and those principles that will guide the peace process forward.

First, Trust and Confidence — between the leaders of Israel and the United States. 

This is critical because Israel is the one with the most at risk in the peace process.  And unless Israel’s leaders know that America will be there to back Jerusalem in the most difficult times, they must be far more cautious in their quest for peace.

In addition, if Israel’s foes come to believe that there is diplomatic daylight between the United States and Israel, they will have every incentive to try to exploit those differences and shun peace with the Jewish state. 

That is why it is so important that America and Israel work out whatever differences arise between them privately, and when tensions do arise, that the leaders work together to close those gaps.

The president’s speech to us yesterday reflected just such an effort to close those gaps.

What’s absent from this formulation is whether Kohr thinks Netanyahu has made "such an effort."

The Israeli prime minister was unusually blunt — and open — in his dismissal of President Obama’s Middle East policy speech last week, both in his statement and in how he appeared to lecture Obama in the Oval Office on Middle Eastern "realities." 

And Kohr calls on "America and Israel" to "work out whatever differences arise between them privately" and called on "the leaders" — plural — to "work together to close those gaps."

In other words, he didn’t place the burden on Washington alone. But he only praised Obama.

I don’t think that’s a rebuke to Netanyahu. But it might be a warning — one Netanyahu may take to heart as he prepares for his own AIPAC address tonight.

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