Tina Brown for The Daily Beast: Israel and Britain

March 12th, 2012

The Daily Beast
By Tina Brown
March 12, 2012

Phew!” Obama must be saying to himself right now. “He’s gone!” Bibi Netanyahu was just in Washington, and if there’s a world leader the president winces at the prospect of meeting, it’s the Israeli bruiser, in so many ways the opposite of Obama. Bibi’s stocky, Obama’s a stick; Bibi wants to bomb Iran, Obama isn’t sure this is a cool idea. Bibi’s critics think he’s a bully, Obama’s think he’s a wimp.

Speaking of the special relationship between Israel and America at their meeting, Netanyahu said to Obama: “We are you, and you are us. We are together.” Had there been any other recent American president sitting across from him—Clinton or Bush—Bibi’s words would have been received like a delicious kiss. But Obama, we all know, wasn’t offering any tongue. He is the first American president—maybe the only one—for whom Israel is more notional than visceral. It drives Netanyahu nuts that Obama approaches Israel as he would a theorem—or as just another country. As the provocative Peter Beinart argues in this issue, Obama’s mindset on Israel was shaped by Palestinian sympathizers in Chicago—the liberal “civil-rights Jews” of the kind who would, in all certainty, find Netanyahu unbearable. So the president bites his tongue and chokes back his instincts when dealing with Israel.

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