Obama’s foreign policy was supposed to reboot America’s relationship with the rest of the world. Old allies would become people we occasionally talked to. Old enemies would become new allies. Goodbye Queen, hello Vladimir. Trade the Anglosphere for Latin America’s Marxist dictatorships. Replace allied governments in the Middle East with Islamists and call it a day for the Caliphate.
Obama is still stuck with Europe. The Middle East and Latin American leftists still hate America. The Arab Spring imploded. Japan, South Korea and India have conservative governments.
And then there’s Israel. The original plan was to sideline Israel by focusing on the Muslim world. Instead of directly hammering Israel, the administration would transform the region around it. The American-Israeli relationship would implode not through conflict, but because the Muslim Brotherhood countries would take its place.
That didn’t work out too well. Instead of gracefully pivoting away, Obama loudly snubbed Netanyahu. A photo of him poking his finger in Netanyahu’s chest captured the atmosphere. Netanyahu delivered a speech that Congress cheered. And Obama came to see him as a domestic political opponent.
The torrent of anti-Israel leaks from the administration is a treatment usually reserved for political opponents. The snide remarks by White House spokesmen and the anonymous personal attacks on Netanyahu in the media echo domestic hate campaigns out of the White House like Operation Rushbo.
Netanyahu wasn’t just the leader of a country that the left hated. He had become an honorary Republican.
When Obama met with him, Netanyahu firmly but politely challenged him on policy. He has kept on doing so ever since, including during his most recent visit. At a time when most leaders had gotten the message about shunning Romney, Netanyahu was happy to give him a favorable reception. Netanyahu clearly wanted Romney to win and Obama clearly wished he could pull a Clinton and replace Netanyahu. But Netanyahu’s economic policies were working in exactly the same way that Obama’s weren’t.
The two men hate each other not only on a personal level, but also on a political level.
Netanyahu had successfully pushed through a modernization and privatization agenda that on this side of the ocean is associated with Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper or Wisconsin governor Scott Walker. It’s likely what Romney would have done which is one more reason the two men got along so well. Obama’s visible loathing for Romney is of a piece with his hatred for Netanyahu.
He doesn’t just hate them. He hates what they stand for. That’s why Harper and Netanyahu get along so well. It’s part of why Obama and Netanyahu get along so badly.
But the bigger part of the conflict is neither personal nor political. Obama wanted to sideline Israel; instead he’s stuck dealing with it. Hillary’s lack of foreign policy ambition allowed the Jewish State to come through fairly well in Obama’s first term. For Hillary, being Secretary of State was just a stepping stone to the White House by making her rerun candidacy seem fresh. Her relationship with Israel was bad, but her first job was not to make any waves.
John Kerry ambitiously jumped into multiple foreign policy arenas. His bid for a deal between Israel and the PLO was a predictable disaster.