A New Bibi-Barack Era? No | The Times of Israel #tcot >>


A New Bibi-Barack Era? No

Jokes, warm rhetoric and good body language shouldn’t obscure that the differences between Obama and Netanyahu are as stark as ever on Iran and the Palestinians

By DAVID HOROVITZ March 21, 2013, 2:18 pm 4

US President Barack Obama and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at their joint news conference, Wednesday, March 20, 2013. (photo credit: AP/Carolyn Kaster)RELATED TOPICS


The repartee has been truly slick at times. Take this one-two at the beginning of President Barack Obama’s remarks during his joint press conference with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Jerusalem on Wednesday night.

Obama: “It was wonderful to see (your two sons)… I did inform the prime minister that they are very good-looking young men who clearly got their looks from their mother.”

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Netanyahu, instantly: “Well, I can say the same of your daughters.”

Obama: “This is true. Our goal is to improve our gene pool by marrying women who are better than we are.”

A stand-up comic would have been proud of Netanyahu’s rapid response. And Obama’s follow-up was nicely worded to put the two leaders in the same category — both married to better halves.

They’ve joked together, stripped out of their suit jackets together, walked arm-in-arm, called each other the familiar “Barack” and “Bibi.”

They’ve also sought to assert that they largely see eye-to-eye on the key issues they’ve been discussing: Iran, Syria, the Palestinians.

But, Syria possibly excepted, they just don’t. And if you look closely at their comments so far on this first Obama presidential visit, including at that so-friendly press conference, that’s unmistakable.

On Iran, Obama may have legitimately asserted that “there is not a lot of light, a lot of daylight, between our countries’ assessments in terms of where Iran is right now.” But that’s not exactly the point. The real issue is not the assessments of Iran’s progress, but whether there’s any light between the two countries’ approaches to grappling with the consequences of those shared assessments — to stopping Iran.

And on that, the gulf was glaring. Obama said he was here “to understand how the Israeli government and the prime minister is approaching this [Iranian] problem to make sure that there are no misunderstandings there.” Misunderstandings, presumably not. Differences, absolutely.

Obama made clear, again, that “we prefer to resolve this diplomatically, and there’s still time to do so,” that he’ll stop Iran one way or another if that fails, and that he has Israel’s back. As in: Don’t worry, and certainly don’t fire. I’ll take care of Iran. You don’t need to. I can stop them for the long-term. You can’t.

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