In recent days, the news has been dominated by stories of President Obama’s plans to punish Israel over comments that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu made in the run-up to his successful campaign for re-election.
In a phone call between the two leaders on Thursday, “The president told the prime minister that we will need to reassess our options following the prime minister’s new positions and comments regarding the two-state solution,” a White House official told Reuters.
Operatively, that means removing traditional U.S. protection of Israel at the United Nations.
The remark that evidently prompted this reassessment had to do with comments that Netanyahu made with regard to establishing a Palestinian state. As John Podhoretz and others have noted, it was pretty clear from Netanyahu’s comments that he wasn’t ruling out a Palestinian state ever — he was just talking about how it would be naive to think that one can be established under the current circumstances. His actual statement was, “I think that anyone who is going to establish a Palestinian state today and evacuate lands is giving attack grounds to radical Islam against the state of Israel.” The word “today” is quite important.
Netanyahu has made this distinction clear in subsequent interviews, but that still hasn’t altered Obama’s determination to punish an ally.
This is a striking difference from how the White House has treated Iran. In the lead up to his 2013 election victory, Hassan Rouhani gave an interview in which he pushed back against the suggestion that as Iran’s nuclear negotiator during the 2003 to 2005, the program was suspended under international pressure.
An angry Rouhani shot back and described how Iran was able to manipulate international negotiations and ultimately advance the program.
“The Tehran Declaration was supposed to outline the resolutions and suspensions,” he said. “We didn’t allow it. We only halted the gas supply for those 10 centrifuges in Natanz.”