I’ve written a few times about one of President Obama’s favorite little tactics — taking opportunities to insult and tell off people to their faces in circumstances where they can’t hit back or even respond without breaking protocol or looking like a jerk. And he’s damned good at it.
In his speech on the Middle East, Obama didn’t give Israel — the only democracy in the Middle East — much to hope for. Lots of demands on them, only vague suggestions for the Palestinians. And then Prime Minister Netanyahu — who had been snubbed on a previous visit — got his meeting with Obama, followed by the traditional joint appearance where the two heads of state sit there, pose for photos, and say nice platitudes about each other and pose for photos.
Not this time. Netanyahu took the opportunity to deliver an epic seven-minute lecture on Israel’s history (the most common element: being attacked by her neighbors out to wipe the Jewish state (and Jews) off the face of the earth), security concerns, and some basic lessons on military strategy and vulnerability.
And for once, Obama had to be the one sitting there and taking it. He had to pretend that he wasn’t being schooled, being taken to the woodshed, while Netanyahu essentially told the world that Obama was, at best, a clueless idiot who had no idea what he was talking about in the Middle East (I’m being kind here).
Now, tactically speaking, it was probably a bad move for Netanyahu in the short term. Obama is notoriously thin-skinned and vindictive, and he’s surrounded himself with a lot of people who share those traits. And his Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, isn’t overly friendly towards Israel either.
But the Obama administration — like an Obama promise — comes with an expiration date. Depending on what happens in November 2012, it could be as soon as January 20, 2013. (Oh, please, please, please…) And Netanyahu knows that American Jews went overwhelmingly for Obama the last time around.
That could change next time, if enough American Jews come to the decision that Obama is no friend of Israel’s — and the world is a hell of a better place for having Israel in it.