The authorization of the 1,600 new housing units in Jerusalem during Biden’s trip caught Netanyahu by surprise. But the unusually harsh language used by the Obama administration is the kind typically reserved for rogue nations, not longstanding allies.
The root cause of the problem is that Obama and Netanyahu have different priorities and strategies. The White House feels that making progress in the peace process is an urgent priority and believes a breakthrough is possible. Moreover, Obama feels it is more incumbent upon Israel than the Palestinians to demonstrate a dedication to peace.
Netanyahu believes progress is not possible given the split in Palestinian politics between the PA and Hamas, and Palestinian redlines, which remain unchanged since 2000. Iran’s nuclear threat is Netanyahu’s first priority. Obama’s approach to the Middle East, where he is engaging with regimes like Iran and Syria while castigating Israel, is seen as troubling in Jerusalem, especially since Obama has nothing to show for his engagement.
A Netanyahu-led government was not Obama’s first choice. It is harder to extract concessions, despite the fact that a breakthrough on the Palestinian side is nowhere in sight. Another crisis lies in wait as the clock continues to tick on Iran’s nuclear program.
— Matthew RJ Brodsky is director of policy at the Jewish Policy Center and editor of inFocus Quarterly.