Roger Cohen wrote this in the New York Times of Obama’s putdown of Netanyahu: “The former Soviet leader [Khrushchev] thought he could browbeat Kennedy only to discover, in Vienna, that the Kennedy charm was not unalloyed to steel (‘It will be a long, cold winter’). Netanyahu was the first foreign leader to think he could steamroll Obama. He earned a frosty comeuppance.”
The paean goes on to praise the new steely Obama who used Netanyahu, like Kennedy did Khrushchev, to establish his fides.
But this is absolutely lunatic for at least five reasons:
a) “Netanyahu was the first foreign leader to think he could steamroll Obama.” Hardly. Right out of the blocks Putin did it with his phony missiles-for-Iran deal. Under “reset” diplomacy, Ahmadinejad for a year now has been pressing ahead as never before. The Chinese certainly assume that they can “steamroll” this administration, as we saw from the last meeting there.
b) Khrushchev was our enemy trying to destroy freedom from Asia to Eastern Europe; Netanyahu is the head of an allied democracy, one that is a beacon of constitutionalism in a sea of autocracy.
c) The Soviet Union was a massive superpower with thousands of nuclear bombs and missiles and an entire bloc of communist client states; Israel is a tiny country of 7 million and mostly alone; how heroic is it to bully an allied small democracy versus a huge communist dictatorship?
d) Kennedy said later of that summit in Vienna that Khrushchev “beat the hell out of me” — an accurate assessment, since Khrushchev came away determined to press his luck during the Cuban Missile Crisis to come. So we don’t know the reaction of the Israelis or Palestinians to all this — only that anytime the U.S. gratuitously seeks to humiliate Israel, we can expect its enemies to see a green light and escalate, whether on the ground in the Middle East, at Arab Summits, or in the UN.
e) A shaky American leader usually seeks to stand up to powerful regional dictatorships rather than pick on friends — that is, if the point is that the United States is still there for its allies and a formidable foe to its enemies. But apparently that was not the intent at all with Israel.