As Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu meets with President Barack Obama Monday, their relationship is as frosty as ever. But both men can say they achieved their primary goals in the U.S.-Israel alliance.
Obama has his Iran deal. The deal is already unraveling–indeed, it is no “agreement” at all, it guarantees a nuclear Iran, and the regime has used it as a pretext for more hostility and aggression, including the recent arrests of two Americans.
Yet the deal has reset the balance of power in the Middle East, which was Obama’s goal all along. He did not know quite how he wanted to do it–indeed, in his first months in office, he tried to appease the Sunni regimes as well as the Iranian Shiite theocracy. But he soon found a path to undo American influence in the region. By strengthening Iran, Obama hopes to create a “new equilibrium.” It will fail, disastrously, but it is at least what he set out to do.
Netanyahu was elected on a promise to stop Obama. He did not stop the Iran deal–though not for lack of trying–but he did finally stop Obama’s meddling in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Last week, Obama admitted that there was no prospect of a peace deal on his watch. That is largely his fault, because his own hostility to Israel provoked Palestinian violence. But it is an improvement on his two predecessors, who each tried to rush a deal in his last year.
Much of the media coverage leading up to the meeting has focused on Ran Baratz, a newly-appointed Netanyahu aide with a long history of Internet comments about both American and Israeli leaders. The Obama administration has used the incident to score points off the Israeli government–though Obama has hired more anti-Israel advisers than the reverse.
But the real story is the stalemate. Whatever happens next will largely be up to a new president.