Most reporters for mainstream American news organizations were loathe to describe the obvious improvement in the atmosphere when Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu and President Donald Trump held their joint press conference on Wednesday, compared to the frigid and tense poses when Netanyahu and former President Barack Obama held joint appearances in the preceding eight years.
It was not hard to understand why the Israeli prime minister was smiling during his interview with Sean Hannity on Fox News the next day. One reason is that both Trump and Netanyahu are aware they help their own political positions by strengthening the ties between the two countries.
But the reality is deeper: The two men get along because they actually see the world the same way. Obama had a very different world view. Although he saw a link between Israel and the United States, this was mainly as colonialist bullies. No American president before Obama, and hopefully none in the future, will ever be so equivocal about his own country’s history and values.
The improved special relationship between Israel and the United States is not entirely new. President George W. Bush had solid ties with Israel’s leaders and endorsed a 2004 letter ahead of Israel’s withdrawal from Gaza acknowledging that the 1949 borders were not permanent and that facts on the ground made it inevitable that many Jewish communities beyond the Green Line would not be uprooted in a future peace agreement. Obama ignored this letter, refused to give it any authority, and, along with others in the White House and State Department, attacked Israel after each and every bit of news of new Jewish housing in the West Bank, as if those were crimes against humanity. No supposed foe of the United States received such scorn and rebuke over eight years as Israel. And there was the coup de grace in Obama’s final months, the American abstention at the United Nations on Security Council Resolution 2334, which effectively resulted in awarding the entire territory to the Palestinians and treating any Israeli activity in the area as illegal.
American officials argued they needed to make it clear to Israel they were unhappy about the “stepped-up” pace of settlement activity, which represents an obstacle to achieving the two-state solution. The Obama action, forcefully defended by Secretary of State John Kerry (who seems to be contemplating a run for president in 2020), ignored pretty much all the other reasons for the failure. The Palestinians themselves are divided into two political entities, one run by Hamas, the other by the Palestinian Authority. Elections for PA president and parliament have not been held in over a decade. No Palestinian leader has ever been willing to acknowledge that Israel is a Jewish state and that there will be no “right of return” for Palestinians who never lived in or who left Israel and are falsely classified as refugees — more than 98% of the so-called Palestinian refugees. Only among Palestinians is refugee status conferred to endless descendants of the original refugees. The refugee issue was one of five mentioned by Max Singer in a Wall Street Journal column calling for telling the truth about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.