Netanyahu’s rejection of Obama’s Mideast speech underestimated the president’s strength—and could hasten the Israeli leader’s political demise.

by Michael Tomasky

Bibi Netanyahu could have reacted any number of ways to Barack Obama’s mention of the “1967 lines with mutually agreed swaps.” Let’s say, actually, four ways—embrace, circumspection, suspicion, tantrum. That he chose the last—saying immediately after the Obama speech that he “expects” to hear Obama in essence renounce what he’d just said before the entire world!—tells us a lot about the man’s shortcomings and (lack of) political instinct. All political is local, and Netanyahu undoubtedly scored points with his Likud base back home. But he has a base here in America too, and I think he misjudged that base badly.

One senses here a big public-relations, and possibly public-opinion, shift from two years ago. Right after he took office in 2009, Obama pushed Israel too hard on settlements, thinking that he had more political capital on the issue than he had. He got slapped down, by Netanyahu and AIPAC and members of Congress from both parties. At the same time, Syria was rebuffing administration overtures, and the new president was learning the hard way that the Middle East wasn’t the staff of the Harvard Law Review, and it wouldn’t quite so pliably prostrate itself to his will and aura.

But now, is it Obama who’s going to suffer the PR blow? Something tells me that this time, the pressure will mount more on Bibi than Barack. read more

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