The Obama administration has strained the U.S. relationship with Israel more than any other. The nuclear deal with Iran is the latest example. Yet Israel might arguably be said to be doing its own part to worsen the relationship, with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and other officials offering unusually harsh, and public, condemnation of the deal even after it was concluded and there was little left to be done about it.
The question is: why? The Obama administration is still going to be around for another three years. Even if the Israeli government has concluded there is no use holding back–not after this deal, after John Kerry’s vile “intifada” remark, or after the appointments of Chuck Hagel and Samantha Power–why embarrass a famously thin-skinned president and risk losing his administration’s support even on areas of mutual interest?
There are two explanations. One is the sort favored by both the peaceniks of J Street and much of the left-liberal commentariat: i.e. that Netanyahu is either malevolent or simply incompetent. How else to explain his apparent bet on Mitt Romney to win in 2012, which was not only wrong but also risked scarce political capital? Now he is isolating himself even further on Iran, even as he delays peace with the Palestinians.
The other explanation is of the kind favored by much of the conservative media, which tends to have a more accurate, if somewhat somewhat rose-tinged, view of Netanyahu: i.e. that he knows exactly what he is doing. He may even have better intelligence than he is letting on: suppose he knows that Iran is already violating the deal–by hiding weapons-grade uranium, for instance. Has he already committed to military action? Perhaps…