President Obama Doesn't Much Care What Benjamin Netanyahu Thinks Anymore

| Fri Nov. 8, 2013 10:53 AM PST

The United States and its allies appear to be close to an interim deal with Iran, one that would modestly ease some of the economic sanctions currently in place in return for some kind of freeze on its centrifuge activities. Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu is apoplectic at the prospect of a deal, but no one seems to be paying much attention to him. Jeffrey Goldberg explains why:

Two reasons. The first reason is that U.S. President Barack Obama has him boxed in. Netanyahu can’t launch a unilateral strike on Iran now that the U.S. is actively negotiating with its leaders.

....The second reason is one Netanyahu, so far at least, has refused to comprehend. His unwillingness to permanently freeze settlement growth on the West Bank, to make the sort of grand gesture toward the Palestinians that would advance the peace process, has caused even those in Washington and Europe who are sympathetic to his stance on Iran to write him off as generally immovable and irrational.

....Netanyahu argues that these are two separate issues, and he’s correct. Except that, in the world of international diplomacy, they are inextricably linked. The Obama administration hears Netanyahu’s demands for more action on Iran and tries — so far, fairly successfully — to meet that call for action. But when the Obama administration turns around and asks Netanyahu to make the sort of gestures that might advance the peace process, it more often than not gets stonewalled.

I'd put it more simply. Netanyahu has made it clear that he's just flatly opposed to any plausible bargain at all. His idea of a deal is that Iran first destroys its entire nuclear infrastructure and then—maybe—sanctions should be eased or lifted. This is pretty plainly not a deal that any national leader in his right mind would ever accept, and Netanyahu knows it. So he's essentially saying that no deal should ever be made with Iran.

Given an attitude like that, who's going to take him seriously? Nobody. Add to that an unending string of personal affronts against President Obama, and it's a credit to Obama's self-control that he's still willing to talk to Netanyahu at all. Obama has been endlessly accommodating toward Netanyahu's interests, and it's gotten him nothing in return but condescending lectures and blunt dismissals. So now he's acting on his own. More here from Andrew Sullivan.

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