You have to hand it to Bibi Netanyahu. It took only a week following the Congressional election for him to come to the United States and tell it t to "drop dead." To his way of thinking he was just telling that to President Obama but that is not how it works here.
By announcing a renewed settlement drive while in this country, rejecting a US policy that is decades old, Netanyahu is disrespecting this country, even more than its President.
But that is not how Netanyahu sees it. Like his friends in the GOP, he does not view Obama as a legitimate President. On top of that, he is certain that Obama is finished and he can roll him.
In any case, he only wants one thing from Obama and that is support for bombing Iran. But he is so sure that Obama will be gone in 2012 that he figures he can wait for President Palin or Huckabee (or whoever) for that permission slip.
For now, he will do what he can to ensure that Obama is not re-elected and that the Republicans control Congress. (Note to VIce President Biden: Bibi is not your friend).
Netanyahu, and his political aides tell him he can defeat Obama. They assure him that he can stop the big bucks from going to the Democrats in 2012. They don't understand -- as I hope Obama does -- that Jewish donors support Democrats because they are liberals not because of Israel. (This is, of course, the opposite of what AIPAC and its friends inside the administration tell Obama). The hardliners on Israel, the Israel-firsters, are part of that 25% of American Jews who are Republicans. Jews who are Democrats, and do care about Israel, want an end to the occupation, peace and security for Israel and the Palestinians, and don't support Netanyahu's policies anyway.
All this presents Obama with the first opportunity, post-election, to demonstrate how he will deal with the right-wing opposition through 2012. He can slap Bibi down hard, slow down the US aid train, and, make it clear that he is reassessing relations until Netanyahu backs down.
He can treat Netanyahu in exactly the way he should deal with Mitch McConnell and others who see their life's mission as destroying Obama's Presidency. (Except Netanyahu's offense is worse. He is a foreign leader who gets more aid from the United States, by far, than any other country).
Obama can use Netanyahu as a helpful prop in his battle with the Republicans. He can send the message that there is a new sheriff in town and that it's a new Obama.
Or he can try to conciliate a foreign leader who is trying to destroy him, thereby sending the message that turning the other cheek is still the order of the day. If he does that, we will know exactly what to expect domestically: failed attempts to placate McConnell, Cantor, Boehner and the rest of the gang. (Hello more tax cuts for billionaires!)
Re-evaluating US policy toward Israel now is the best thing Obama can do for himself politically and for the United States strategically.
And it's the best thing for Israel too, where the majority of Israelis, who favor the security of their country over continuation of the occupation, will be empowered. They might even be able to dump Bibi once and for all. This crisis is an opportunity for us and for them, but only if it is not defused.
Right now AIPAC and its friends in the White House are working desperately to calm the storm so that everything stays cool and the "special relationship" doesn't lose any specialness.
Obama cannot let that happen, Obama needs to make Netanyahu back down publicly and thereby indicate that he knows he is dealing with a President of the United States, not some guy who, by definition, does not belong in the White House.
This is a test, Mr. President. Use it, In this case, more fuel on the fire is a very good thing. Until Bibi says "uncle."