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.”
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.”