For Peace, Netanyahu Has to Show Respect to the President

May 27, 2011


Last week, President Barack Obama outlined his vision for the Middle East, rooted in the principle that change is inevitable, and that democracy, human rights and self-determination will continue to ultimately move the region to a better place. For too long, dictators ran the region, many of whom deliberately held the Mid-East peace process hostage for their own personal gain and popularity.

An important component of the President’s address was the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The President did not offer anything novel regarding the conflict, but rather re-stated long-running U.S. policy regarding the 1967 borders, which both the Clinton and Bush administrations saw as a starting point for negotiations.

 In response, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu sat in the White House alongside Obama and called the President’s remarks on the 1967 borders “indefensible” and “throwing Israel under the bus.”  Netanyahu not only questioned President Obama’s intelligence in a 12-minute rambling diatribe in the Oval office on the history of the Middle East, but at the invitation of the congressional Republican leadership, he went so far as to rebut the President’s speech in front of both houses of the United States Congress this week.

 Unfortunately, this type of political grandstanding is nothing new from the Republican leadership in Congress. In November 2009, after meeting with Netanyahu in Israel, Republican House Majority leader Eric Cantor (leading a 25-person Congressional delegation), said that he would act as a check to the President’s policy in the Middle East. This statement was an unprecedented rebuke by a member of Congress, of an American President on foreign soil. No matter what one’s views are regarding the conflict, it is distasteful for members of Congress to volunteer themselves as theater props in order to discredit the President of the United States.

 No matter how long such political theater continues, the status quo will not move either side forward. Both sides have entrenched themselves.  From the Israeli side, the separation wall continues to be built on Palestinian land and illegal settlements continue to grow. The Palestinians have recently signed a unity agreement, yet there does not seem to be much movement towards a national platform for peace and the use of violence in Gaza continues to set them back.

 President Obama cannot produce a peace agreement on his own.  And while pressure is on Palestinians to make more concessions, the reality is that the Israelis can end the stalemate now if it wanted to have a peace deal.  But Netanyahu's condescending attitude to our President and by extension our country has to end.  Jeffery Goldberg in an article entitled "Dear Mr. Netanyahu, Please Don't Speak to My President That Way”, in the Atlantic Monthly, said, “… he [Netanyahu] threw something of a hissy fit. It was not appropriate, and more to the point, it was not tactically wise…”

It is not only the left who has been taken back by Netanyahu’s disrespect to the Oval office but even among the conservatives there is criticism of the way he has demeaned the office of the President of the United States. For peace to be a reality, respect for the White House by Netanyahu must b

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