Walking It Back, Or Not

by Eliana Johnson

A lot of important people this week, it seems, have been clarifying their positions on Israel, Jews, and the Middle East.

First there was our nominee for secretary of defense, Chuck Hagel, who, in the course of a 90-minute meeting with Senator Chuck Schumer, repudiated nearly every position he staked out regarding the Middle East in the course of his twelve-year career in the Senate. He once opposed unilateral sanctions, but now sees the wisdom in President Obama’s sanctions regime. He urged the president to open direct talks with Hamas; now, he’s certain there should be no negotiations with the group. And, according to Schumer, with regard to Hagel’s use of the term “Jewish lobby,” he now “understands the sensitivity around such a loaded term and regrets saying it.”

So with Egyptian president Mohamed Morsi, who revised his views in response to the discovery of remarks he delivered in 2010 referring to Israeli Jews as “the descendants of apes and pigs” and “bloodsuckers who attack Palestinians.” Morsi explained that he was merely inveighing against Israel’s “racist” policies and respects all monotheistic religions. Of course he does.

That leaves President Obama as the lone man standing by his words. In particular, the president hasn’t walked back statements revealed earlier this week by The Atlantic’s Jeffrey Goldberg, who quotes Obama as saying repeatedly, “Israel doesn’t know what its own best interests are.” Goldberg goes on to assert that Obama “seems to view [Netanyahu] as a political coward, an essentially unchallenged leader who nevertheless is unwilling to lead or spend political capital to advance the cause of compromise.”

Netanyahu fired back promptly, telling reporters, “I think everyone understands that only Israel’s citizens are those who will be the ones to determine who faithfully represents Israel’s vital interests.”

Obama’s disdain for Netanyahu, and Netanyahu’s for Obama, is an open secret. Previously, we’ve known this chiefly because the president’s gripes about having to deal with Netanyahu “every day!” were caught on a hot mic; now, that animosity has escalated into a war of words on the world stage, and the president seems to be okay with that. 

The Corner

The one and only.