Who said this about a world leader: He's a "political coward -- an essentially unchallenged leader who nevertheless is unwilling to lead or spend political capital to advance the cause of compromise"? Was it perhaps John Boehner describing Barack Obama? No, though the shoe would certainly fit. It was Barack Obama describing Binyamin Netanyahu.
This insight into Obama's views comes from an interview with the Atlantic Magazine's Jeffrey Goldberg. Let's pause for second to consider the gall. Mr. Obama knows full well that the United States confronts an unavoidable debt crisis if our government does not reform entitlements. Rather than lead, Obama has peddled denial ("We don't have a spending problem"), distortion (suggesting that Republicans who want spending cuts in exchange for raising the debt ceiling are "not paying America's bills") and demonization of the rich.
What wouldn't Netanyahu give for such manageable problems?
The prime minister of Israel is confronted by deadly threats in all directions. Iran, whose leaders routinely threaten to destroy the Jewish state (the "moderate" Hashemi Rafsanjani noted that "one bomb" would destroy all of Israel so "it is not irrational to contemplate such an eventuality"), is marching, seemingly inexorably with Obama's reelection, toward a nuclear weapon.
Syria is in flames, with the outcome uncertain. Lebanon is controlled by Hezbollah. Iraq's future stability is in doubt with the total withdrawal of U.S. forces.
Egypt, whose three-decade peace treaty with Israel offered a certain tenuous security to the Jewish state, is now in the hands of the Muslim Brotherhood. And while Obama's Director of National Intelligence James Clapper described the Brotherhood in 2011 as "largely secular," the true nature of the regime is dawning on even the most obtuse. There was Mohammed Morsi's power grab in late November, when he attempted to grant himself sweeping authority. There is the persecution of Christians at the hands of the Muslim Brotherhood (sometimes including crucifixion). And there is the 2010 video that surfaced recently of Morsi himself describing Israelis as bloodsuckers, warmongers and "the descendants of apes and pigs."
According to Goldberg, Obama has said repeatedly, "Israel doesn't know what its best interests are." With each new settlement announcement, Obama believes, "Netanyahu is moving his country down a path toward near-total isolation."
Obama is revealing his ignorance and arrogance. The question of settlements has not prevented the Palestinians from negotiating in the past. The PA decided to make halting settlements a condition of negotiation after Obama himself insisted upon it. They could hardly do less. By big-footing it, Obama impeded the cause of negotiations.
Israel has built most settlements in regions quite close to the 1967 borders that everyone believes would be incorporated into Israel anyway. As the Washington Post noted in an editorial implicitly critical of Obama, "80 percent of [Israeli settlers] could be included in Israel if the country annexed just more than 4 percent of the West Bank -- less than the 5 percent proposed by President Bill Clinton 12 years ago." Obama himself has predicted that there would be "land swaps" as part of any final agreement. Besides, why is it considered out of the question that some Jewish settlements would remain in a future Palestinian state? There are more than a million Israeli Arabs living throughout the Jewish state.
Has Mr. Obama not considered that Israel has dismantled settlements in the Sinai and Gaza? The Gaza withdrawal brought not peace but unrelenting missile fire. The jury is out on the Sinai withdrawal.
Like his colleagues on the left, and like his nominee for Defense Secretary, Obama believes that Israel's vulnerability is her own fault. He utterly misconceives the entire conflict, which is not about "two states for two peoples" (which Israel has repeatedly endorsed and sacrificed for) but about the stubborn Palestinian rejection of Israel's existence. Evidence for this is so abundant -- from official PA maps that show no Israel, to Palestinian TV programs that laud terrorists as heroes, to a recent poll showing that 56 percent of Palestinians oppose a two-state solution -- that ignorance cannot be explained as benign. Just in the past week, Mahmoud Abbas decided not to accept hundreds of thousands of Syrian Palestinian refugees into the land he controls because Israel asked that they sign a waiver renouncing a "right of return" to the Jewish state. He was explicit: It's "better they die in Syria than give up their right of return."
That's what Israel must contend with. Perhaps worst of all is the tacit hostility of Israel's formerly most steadfast friend.