Though Russia’s Vladimir Putin has violated Ukrainian sovereignty and the laws of war, though his government has lied brazenly to American officials and flouted the norms of the international community, President Barack Obama has reserved his ire for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. “Time is running out,” said Obama in an interview released on Sunday afternoon, warning that Israel had to make deep concessions for peace.
The timing of the interview’s publication was likely no accident: though the Obamaphilic Jeffrey Goldberg met with Obama Thursday, his article was only published once Netanyahu was in midair over the Atlantic. Bibi seemed to have anticipated Obama’s rebuke, declaring before he left Israel that he would not yield to pressure. Yet Obama’s remarks still were, in the worlds of Times of Israel editor David Horvitz, a “bombshell.”
On past visits, Netanyahu has seemed to get the better of Obama–excluding his 2010 visit, when the president infamously left the prime minister to stew in the White House. This time Obama seems to be taking no chances. Secretary of State John Kerry is set to reveal the administration’s “framework” for an Israeli-Palestinian peace when he addresses the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) conference on Monday afternoon.
So the White House will control the media narrative as tightly as possible, and Netanyahu will barely have an opportunity to respond before he addresses AIPAC on Tuesday morning. Yet while Netanyahu will be boxed in by the news cycle, it is Obama’s foreign policy that has been boxed in by reality. The impotence of the U.S. in dealing with Ukraine and Syria has freed Israel, ironically, to deal with Iran and other threats as it sees fit.