After hearing that Obama had been reelected as President of the United States this past Wednesday, Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu, who had supported republican candidate Mitt Romney, called the President to offer his congratulations. Regardless of what sources say, it is difficult for people to imagine that Netanyahu and Obama will maintain a close, warm and strategically aligned partnership, but rather both men will be forced to recalibrate their difficult relationship.
Netanyahu voiced his support for republican candidate Mitt Romney earlier this fall, making many sources speculate that as a result Netanyahu may be put in some uncomfortable situations regarding the close relationship between Israel and the United States. Many people are questioning President Obama’s current opinion on PM Netanyahu. One source said, “But some observers believe Obama will seek ‘payback’ for Netanyahu’s perceived high-handedness, attempts to browbeat the US into a tougher line on Iran, refusal to restrain settlement growth in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, and meddling in the US election process.”
The official response from Netanyahu after Obama was reelected as the United States President, regardless of his personal stance, was, of course, congratulatory. Netanyahu said, “I will continue working with President Obama to ensure Israel’s vital national security interests. The strategic union between Israel and the US is stronger than ever.” Netanyahu finished by saying, ““I think the United States of America again demonstrated why it’s the greatest democracy on earth. The security relationship between the United States and Israel is rock solid. I look forward to working with President Obama to further strengthen this relationship and I look forward to working with him to advance our goals of peace and security.”
Defense Minister Ehud Barak, issued a more nuanced statement, referring to differences between the allies, saying, “I have no doubt that the Obama administration will continue its policy whereby Israel’s security is at its very foundations as well as its efforts to tackle the challenges facing all of us in the region; all the while continuing to strive for further progress in the peace process. I believe that in the tradition of deep friendship and with a backdrop of shared experiences accrued with President Obama, it will also be possible to overcome any differences in stance; should they arise.”
There are a handful of things that will characterize the relationship between the US and Israel over the next year, two of which are predominantly more significant. The first is Iran and the second is the Israel-Palestine conflict. After President Obama refused to be forced into specifying the involvement of the United States if Israel were to attack Iran which led to PM Netanyahu stating in a speech to the UN in September that it was unlikely that Israel would launch a military strike against Iran’s nuclear installations before next spring or summer.
Some say that Obama will choose to involve the United States in Israeli politics with the hope of helping the country progress towards a settlement of the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians. Netanyahu, whose inclination is to “manage the current situation in which millions of Palestinians live under occupation”, rather than advance towards a two-state settlement of the conflict, will attempt to resist pressure from Obama and the United States.
The hope is that President Obama and Prime Minister Netanyahu will be able to move forward and accomplish goals while working together as one, strong, force. Both leaders want to make the best of their complex relationship and some US sources are guessing that this will lead to an official visit by Obama to Israel. Though Obama and Netanyahu currently have different stances regarding Iran’s nuclear power and the Israel-Palestine conflict, there is no question in the minds of international politicians that both Obama and Netanyahu will put their best foot forward and work to compromise on policies that allow for the countries to move forward, together.
Question: How would the relationship between President Obama and Prime Minister Netanyahu be different if Netanyahu had chosen not to publically announce his support for Romney? Is it realistic to think that Obama and Netanyahu will be able to work together and compromise on issues as large as Iran’s nuclear power and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict?