Why Netanyahu Is Meeting with Obama in November


Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and U.S. President Barack Obama announced late last week that they will meet in Washington, D.C. on November 9.

The announcement seemed to indicate that they had put the rancor surrounding the Iran deal behind them. Obama told a conference call of American rabbis that security cooperation with Israel had resumed, now that it was clear Congress would not be able to pass a disapproval resolution.

On the surface, the meeting is a welcome development, as it signals to the world that the U.S.-Israel alliance is still intact.

Both leaders also need it, politically. Obama wants to show that he has not permanently alienated Israel by pursuing an Iran deal that Israelis across the political spectrum have described as enabling a potential existential threat to their country. Netanyahu needs to show Israelis that he did not risk U.S.-Israel relations in a lost cause.

But there is also a message in the timing of the announcement. November 9 is the anniversary of Kristallnacht, the “Night of Broken Glass,” when the Holocaust is considered to have begun in 1938 with the destruction of Jewish stores and the burning of synagogues across Germany. Netanyahu has said throughout the negotiations with Iran–from which Israel was excluded–that he does not intend to repeat history, and that Israel will defend itself.

The Iran deal formally takes effect on October 19, which means it will be in effect when Netanyahu arrives, though sanctions likely will not have been lifted. Israel likely cannot risk Iran obtaining $150 billion in sanctions relief, or the transfer of Russian S-300 surface-to-air missiles to Tehran.

The November meeting therefore provides one last chance for Netanyahu to make his case before Israel gives up on diplomacy and takes matters into its own hands.