26 February 2015

Knock It Off

Over one month ago I attempted, in a measured tone, to caution against the rising tensions in the relationship between Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and President Barack Obama--most immediately in connection to Speaker Boehner's invitation to Bibi to address the U.S. Congress.

In the weeks since, this deeply unfortunate episode in the Israel-US alliance has only worsened.  Each day there are verbal shots fired across divide that have the only effect of exacerbating a deterioration in relations that, in the grand scheme of things, is fundamentally unhelpful.

I'm of the view that both President Obama and Prime Minister Netanyahu are to blame for this ongoing feud which lacks discipline, weakens each of them in the broader public eye, and puts at risk an alliance that is critical to the broader war against extremism and totalitarianism in the region.

And as an American Jewish leader, I am simply embarrassed that both my President and the Prime Minister of the nation that is central to my Jewish life and identity can't exercise the restraint necessary to overcome this moment, sublimate their bruised egos, and carry on their disagreement in a more productive way.

As some of the excellent reporting coming from Left, Center and Right sources reveals, anyone following this closely understands that the complexity of these matters and the vast disagreement among American and Israeli leaders and allies of Barack and Bibi are hardly easily summarized in the sound bites we're subjected to on an hourly basis.  

Daily verbal explosions amidst highly sensitive negotiations over Iran's nuclear capability only aid the enemy.  It's that basic.  And frankly, it's mind-boggling that two very smart men don't get that.

So guys:  Knock it off.

Since the speech is set to take place in Congress, I'd recommend that the President issue a statement.

"While I have obviously found the invitation to be a breach of diplomatic protocol--and I have expressed my objection to Speaker Boehner--I will be listening to the Prime Minister from the White House.  My attendance at the House or a meeting with Bibi so close to the Israeli elections would not be appropriate.  But as we all know, international negotiations with Iran are ongoing and Israel is among America's strongest allies in this process.  Despite this recent spasm of public disagreement, we remain united in our goal to prevent a dangerously nuclear Iran."

Someone has to be the grown-up here.  And since the talk is on our turf, hospitality requires graciousness, even in the face of insult.

Get over yourselves, guys.  It's never as much about you as you think it is.

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