President Obama took two days to “congratulate” Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on his recent re-election, which prompted the New York Times to wonder “whether the [Obama administration’s antagonism toward Netanyahu] represents a lasting foreign policy shift.” Let’s investigate! We’ll begin our studies with Iran, of all places. Consider the following Press Statement published today by the State Department:
The friend who drew this letter to my attention astutely asked, “Would we offer our condolences to Assad’s mother?” The answer is obviously “No”, but I think a better question — besides Would we offer our condolences to anybody’s mother — is whether the United States would offer its condolences to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s father. And luckily (in a sense), we don’t have to speculate: Benzion Netanyahu passed away in 2012, while the Obama Administration was (obviously) in power.
A search of the State Department’s website for “benzion netanyahu” (using quotation marks) turned up empty:
“bentzion netanyahu” prompted a suggestion to remove the t before the z, but nothing else. And just to be sure, a search for “on the passing of” (again, with quotation marks) turned up 145 results dating back to, roughly, the start of the Obama Administration — and again nothing. I organized those results by date so you can see here the ones that bracket Mr. Netanyahu’s passing in late-April 2012:
So Netanyahu didn’t earn a State Department Press Release – but did he perhaps get something better? As it turns out, he did!
U.S. President Barack Obama phoned Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Wednesday to convey his condolences over the death of Netanyahu’s father, who died Monday morning at the age of 102.
The article reports that it was a rather cordial conversation. Obama and Bibi both said all the right things. But I’m more interested in the timeline: Obama took the same two days to place his sympathy call that are now interpreted by the New York Times as a sign of intense displeasure with Netanyahu. Sure, the stated reason for the delay was “Obama’s unannounced visit to Afghanistan Tuesday” but the elder Netanyahu passed away Monday, and Barack ended up placing the call from Air Force One on Wednesday anyway.
So do recent events constitute “a lasting foreign policy shift”? If we’re going to measure the strength and depth of the American-Israeli relationship by, among other things, phone call time lag, then it would appear things are more less same as they ever were. Luckily (again, in a sense), we seem to have since made a new friend in the Middle East.