Netanyahu’s victory

Netanyahu’s victory

In last week’s election, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu defied polls, surprised pundits and confounded expectations by pulling off a clear victory. We congratulate him as he negotiates a coalition for his historic fourth term as prime minister.
We are concerned, however, that there was a heavy price for Netanyahu’s victory. His last-minute renunciation of support for a two-state solution and his warning that Arab Israelis were going to the polls “in droves” were very troubling. Although we are heartened that Netanyahu quickly walked back his opposition to a future Palestinian state and apologized for his remarks about Arab Israelis, we remain concerned that the pre-election declarations have done Israel and its supporters serious damage.
In that regard, we agree with U.S. Mideast peace negotiator and former ambassador Martin Indyk, who said, “On his way to election victory, Netanyahu broke a lot of crockery in [Israel’s] relationship [with the United States].” While we have faith that that relationship is fundamentally sound, we may soon find out what the broken crockery consists of.
Netanyahu’s post-election Washington “to-do list” is long — beginning with the need to do whatever he can to reset Israel’s relationship with the Obama White House. On the international level, we are concerned that Netanyahu has handed the world what appears to be proof that the Jewish state and its leader are not serious about the peace process or the full expression of its democratic nature. He needs to continue to address these issues clearly and directly.
But that’s not all. While laying a fair portion of the blame for this mess squarely on Netanyahu, we also must call out the Obama White House and like-minded critics of Israel who have unfairly blamed Israel for a conflict it neither chose nor wants. In this latest blowup of U.S.-Israeli tension, the Obama administration has gone out of its way to exacerbate the conflict and make political hay out of it, rather than to try to tamp down the friction and focus on shared vital strategic interests and constructive approaches to differing perspectives on policy issues.
Indeed, the White House has shown far more tolerance towards the words and actions of Tehran than those of Jerusalem. Whether the underlying cause is genuine policy differences, domestic political maneuvering or personal petulance — or all of the above — the president has been just as guilty as the prime minister in contributing to the deterioration of the U.S.-Israel relationship, not only in this instance but in a consistent pattern going back to each’s earliest days in office.
Israel is central to Jewish identity and survival. We need the prime minister of the State of Israel to serve as a uniting force for world Jewry. But the U.S.-Israel relationship is also central to the security and prosperity of both nations. We need both governments to do everything they can to figure out a way to move forward constructively. It is long past time for both parties to push the reset button, and mean it. That’s what real leadership demands from each side.