May 25, 2011
Politically, too, the president has been hurt. To the world, and not just the Arabs, he appears weak.
In Israel, Netanyahu is seen as having stood up for Israel’s vital interests and forced an American president to back down. His right-wing coalition is cheering him on.
Indeed, the issue is not whether Obama has been hurt, but why Bibi, raised in the U.S.A., who knows American politics better than any previous Israeli prime minister, did it. Why wound Obama like that?
Why would the leader of a nation of 7 million that is dependent on U.S. arms, foreign aid and diplomatic support choose to humiliate a president who could be sitting in that office until 2017?
The one explanation that makes sense is that Netanyahu sees Obama as more sympathetic to the Palestinians and less so to Israel than any president since Jimmy Carter, and he, Netanyahu, would like to see Obama replaced by someone more like the born-again pro-Israel Christian George W. Bush.
And indeed, the Republicans and the right, Mitt Romney in the lead, accusing Obama of “throwing Israel under the bus,” seized on the issue and, almost universally, have taken Netanyahu’s side.
This could be a serious problem for the president and his party in 2012. For, consider:
In 2008, Obama won the African-American vote 95 to 4, or 16 to 1. He won the Jewish vote 78 to 21, by 57 points, a historic landslide.
These are arguably the two most reliable of Democratic voting blocs.
And while the Jewish vote may be only one-seventh of the black vote, it has proven decisive in the crucial state of Florida. Moreover, Jewish contributions, by some estimates, may make up half of all the contributions to the Democratic Party.
If, after hearing an Israeli prime minister berate Obama for ignorance or indifference to the cold realities the Jewish state faces, Jewish folks decide Obama is bad for Israel and close their checkbooks, the impact in a tight election could be critical.
On the other hand, for African-Americans to see the first black president treated like some truant third-grader by a prime minister of Israel whose nation is deeply dependent on this country has to grate.
In the short run, Bibi won the confrontation, hands down. Like no other leader before him, he humiliated a U.S. president in front of the world, forced him to revise his remarks of four days previous, then graciously accepted the revision.
But a second-term Obama is unlikely to forget what was done to him.