The Telegraph (UK) reports that Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu has a difficult meeting ahead with POTUS Obama, in that the PM must deliver a series of strong messages to the President, but at the same time avoid any risk of offense. The link provides more detail, so if you are unfamiliar with the tightrope conditions Mr. Netanyahu faces, read that first.
With that established, the Czar offers a few personal observations on Israel.
First, Israel cannot afford to lose American support even by the slightest degree. Israelis, by and large, are slick, savvy, and far-thinking people who have made a courageous career out of toughness and bravery: but even they ultimately depend on the US for their very existence. For all of Israel’s military accomplishements, all of which are justifiably reason to be proud, the mere existence of America is their greatest asset, bar none. If America were to disappear, figuratively, from the Israeli world, the fate of Israel would be sealed and more or less immediate being surrounded by millions of well-armed folks itching to kill them.
Second, Mr. Netanyahu is not blind to how Mr. Obama treats his friends. Overtures to Cuba, Iran, and Venezuela are not as telling as recent snubs to England, Canada, and even our newest pals, France. While the Czar cannot imagine that America would leave Israel to fend for herself, Mr. Netanyahu will indeed be aware that his American counterpart can be quite punitive or condescending to those he deems beneath him. In Israel, a snub will not be about regional DVDs or reset buttons, but will be about missiles, rockets, and suicide bombers in markets.
Third, Mr. Netanyahu is likely well aware that he owes his prime ministry to POTUS Obama, but not in a happy way, just as he was elected in the first place when Clinton was President: the Israelis always elect a conservative PM whenever America elects a Democrat president, under the assumption that a Democrat will likely ignore, humiliate, or restrict Israel—and therefore Israel had best elect someone tough. Netanyahu is PM largely because the Israeli people fear that Obama will not defend them. (And conversely, Israel tends to elect more liberal PMs when a Republican is President.)
Fourth, Mr. Netanyahu is no fool. He will continuously raise the specter of Iran whenever Palestine is brought up, and doubtless our administration will dismiss that as an unrelated triviality. But Iran is a major problem: the Iranians wield considerable financial power in Palestine thanks to Hamas, and can easily be a Hamas puppeteer—and we all know what Iran wants to do to Israel. The Telegraph article notes this, and mentions that Obama will likely counterpoint the notion that giving ground to Palestine could put more pressure on Iran.
But Iran is already under massive pressure, and she is holding. Anything further will be minute. Yet Israel cannot gamble her survival on minutiae: there is no question that Hamas and Fatah are subservient to Iranian interests; there is however only hope and speculation that Iran will welcome Democratic progress in Palestine. Which was would you bet?
The Czar bets this way: Iran wants nothing short of the total annihilation of Israel. The existence or suppression of Palestinians is minor leverage at best. POTUS Obama needs to understand that Israel cannot hope to leverage anything that in any way weakens her chances of survival. If Obama is forced to choose between Israel and Iran, millions will be affected—unfortunately, that tends to be the usual time a Democratic president wilts and shrinks. We do not envy Mr. Netanyahu’s difficulty here.