Once again a petty dispute between Bibi Netanyahu and Barack Obama is generating headlines. This time Obama’s feelings have been hurt because the popular kids decided to have a party without inviting him.
To recap, both Democrats and Republicans in Congress are unhappy with the President and Secretary of State’s inept approach to negotiations with Iran, with Democratic Senator Robert Menendez saying that Obama’s talking points are “straight out of Tehran.” The Speaker of the House of Representatives John Boehner invited Netanyahu to address Congress on one of the most important foreign policy issues we face right now. Obama and his staff are outraged because they were not consulted on the invitation, and as usual they are venting their hostilities at the leader of the Jewish state.
Watching the penny-ante squabbling going on is starting to look more and more like season 4 of Gossip Girl. But the key to understanding what is happening this week is this moment in last Tuesday night’s State of the Union address.
Immediately after calling for “better politics,” the President gloated about winning two elections and then smirked over what has been called his “epic burn.” While his supporters, seemingly oblivious to the November elections that created the current Republican majority in both houses of Congress, basked in his rhetorical victory, not everyone was very happy about it. As was reported in the Washington Post, “Obama’s line . . . isn’t going to do him any favors in the the GOP-controlled Congress, Republican lawmakers said.” He could hardly have been surprised, then, that the very next day the Republican Speaker invited a man that is widely known to be extremely disliked by the President, and did so without consulting him.
But the attacks on Netanyahu that followed, beginning with making the false claim to Bloomberg reporters Eli Lake and Josh Rogin that the Mossad had “gone rogue” on Netanyahu and continuing with the anonymous warning that “there could be lasting consequences,” are thoroughly infantile. John Boehner is the leader of the House of Representatives, the body that most closely represents the interests of the American people. If Netanyahu was invited by him to address Congress on an issue that is vital to the national security of both the US and Israel, he should accept that invitation.
In this case Obama’s issue is with Boehner, but as has been the pattern in this administration, he is childishly venting his hostility on the leader of the Jewish state. Such acts will only continue to alienate Jewish voters, including Jewish Democrats. In the 2014 midterms — which Obama’s party decisively lost — a third of American Jewish voters voted Republican, up from about 20% in 2008. Obama would do well to consider who benefits the most from the growing divide between Jewish voters and the Democratic party — John Boehner and the Republican party.