No Warm Welcome For Bibi

Goldblog interviewed Obama in anticipation of Netanyahu’s visit to the White House today:

In an hourlong interview Thursday in the Oval Office, Obama, borrowing from the Jewish sage Rabbi Hillel, told me that his message to Netanyahu will be this: “If not now, when? And if not you, Mr. Prime Minister, then who?” He then took a sharper tone, saying that if Netanyahu “does not believe that a peace deal with the Palestinians is the right thing to do for Israel, then he needs to articulate an alternative approach.” He added, “It’s hard to come up with one that’s plausible.” …

Obama was blunter about Israel’s future than I’ve ever heard him.

His language was striking, but of a piece with observations made in recent months by his secretary of state, John Kerry, who until this interview, had taken the lead in pressuring both Netanyahu and the Palestinian leader, Mahmoud Abbas, to agree to a framework deal. Obama made it clear that he views Abbas as the most politically moderate leader the Palestinians may ever have. It seemed obvious to me that the president believes that the next move is Netanyahu’s.

Marc Tracy’s takeaway:

What most struck me about the interview is the way Obama speaks of Israel’s interests and the end of the settlements as though he were a typical American Jewish “liberal Zionist”—an Israel supporter, a settlements opponent, constantly trying to calibrate his mind and his heart (or his kishke)—kibitzing on some progressive listserv. “I have not yet heard, however, a persuasive vision of how Israel survives as a democracy and a Jewish state at peace with its neighbors in the absence of a peace deal with the Palestinians and a two-state solution,” he said. “Nobody has presented me a credible scenario.”

David Horovitz thinks the interview illustrated Obama’s lack of faith in Netanyahu:

Since even before he became president, Obama has made plain his conviction that Israel’s settlement enterprise is profoundly counterproductive for the Jewish state. Many Israelis share this belief. That Obama chose to highlight his concern in such ominous and pointed terms, going so far as to warn that it would become harder in the future for the US to protect Israel from the consequences of its misguided West Bank building, would suggest that he has all but despaired of Netanyahu’s willingness to rein in construction. Otherwise, surely, he would have held his fire, and first consulted face-to-face with the prime minister.

For one thing is certain, the president’s resort to a newspaper interview on the eve of their talks to issue near-apocalyptic warnings about the disaster Netanyahu risks bringing upon Israel is just about the last thing likely to bolster the prime minister’s confidence in their alliance, and just about the last thing likely to encourage Netanyahu to further alienate his hawkish home base by taking steps such as halting building outside the settlement blocs.