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Romney Destroys Netanyahu's Big Week

03/07/2012 10:31 am ET | Updated May 07, 2012

We have one person to thank for the fact that President Barack

Obama successfully let Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu know 'who's the boss'

both at the AIPAC conference and at a meeting between the two at the White

House on Monday.

Thank you, Mitt Romney.

Imagine if things had worked out the way Netanyahu wanted

them to: Romney would have turned out to be an excellent candidate who crushed

his opponents with dispatch. He would not only have the Republican nomination sewn

up by now, but he would be the frontrunner to win in November (especially if

the economy was trending down and not up).

Under those circumstances, Bibi would have treated Obama the

way he treated President Clinton during the ridiculous Lewinsky brouhaha. He

essentially ignored him, hanging out with then-Speaker Newt Gingrich and

sending the word to his followers that Clinton was likely to be removed by

Congress. For Bibi, who hated Clinton's alliance with the late Yitzhak Rabin

and his commitment to Rabin's vision, it was all 'happy days are here again.'

That was how Monday was supposed to be, too. Instead, Netanyahu

met with an invigorated president who, thanks to Romney, Gingrich, Santorum and

the rest of the weak GOP field, looks like an almost sure bet for re-election

in November. Bibi understood that any attempt to embarrass Obama or diss him in

front of his AIPAC buddies would haunt him for five more years.

Even worse, it could cost him his job. Prime Minister

Yitzhak Shamir rallied AIPAC against the first President Bush, leading Bush to

all but endorse his opponent, Yitzhak Rabin and bring about Shamir's defeat. AIPAC

gives ovations to Israeli leaders who challenge U.S. Presidents. But the

Israeli people don't, because they live there and understand how much Israel

needs the United States (no, AIPAC, it is not the other way around).

So that is why Monday was Bibi's terrible,

horrible, no good, very bad day.

Start with Obama's

speech
to AIPAC. Netanyahu had asked that the United States redraw its "red

line" from actual Iranian development of a nuclear bomb to the mere capability

to do so. Should Iran cross the line, we would go to war. Obama mentioned no

red lines and did not change U.S. policy. He maintains his latitude to do what

he thinks is right.

Netanyahu wanted Obama to agree that the diplomatic route is

dead; that sanctions can be utilized, but only to produce "crippling" pain on Iranians as

a prelude to war. Instead, Obama emphasized diplomacy,

mentioning it over and over again as the surest way to end the stalemate.

Netanyahu wanted Obama to make clear that if Israel attacks

Iran, the United States will have its back. Obama agreed with the prime

minister that "no Israeli government can tolerate" a nuclear weapon in Iranian

hands, seemingly giving Netanyahu a go-ahead to bomb. But Bibi knows that means

nothing unless the U.S. will join in the attack,

and Obama made it clear that he is not there. Not even close. The president

said:

As President and Commander-in-Chief, I

have a deeply held preference for peace over war. I have sent men and women

into harm's way. I've seen the consequences of those decisions in the eyes of

those I meet who've come back gravely wounded, and the absence of those who

don't make it home. Long after I leave this office, I will remember those

moments as the most searing of my presidency. And for this reason, as part of

my solemn obligation to the American people, I will only use force when the

time and circumstances demand it.

In other words, he understands that Israel will do what it

is going to do. But as president, he won't join in unless the U.S. is directly

threatened. Vice President Biden's idea that there must be "no daylight"

between Israeli and U.S. policies was noticeably absent.

It didn't get any better for Netanyahu when he

met with Obama at the White House.

Netanyahu tried hard to get Obama to go the Biden "no

daylight" route. But Obama wasn't buying. When Bibi came out with the

outlandish and chutzpah-laden line "we are you

and you are us," Obama was silent. His message was: "We believe that there is

still a window that allows a diplomatic solution to this issue."

No wonder Netanyahu seemed so deflated when he delivered his

much-heralded speech to AIPAC. It is enough to say that its highlight was when

he justified war with Iran using a biblical story about a bad Persian tyrant who

tried to destroy the Jewish people 2,500 years ago. (Pathetically, Bibi gave Obama a copy

of the Bible story
to use in his deliberations.)

It only got worse for Netanyahu today when Obama stated at a

press conference that diplomacy remains his preferred route. Obama spoke just

after the announcement

that the United States, Russia, China, France, Britain and Germany would

commence negotiations with Iran on the nuclear issue.

Unlike last time when, at Netanyahu's insistence, the United

States imposed a 3-month deadline, this time negotiations will be open-ended. According

to the New York Times, the talks would

"help relieve pressure from Israel to use military force against Teheran."

At his press conference, Obama at one point spoke as if he

was directly addressing the neocons:

I think there's no doubt that those who

are suggesting or proposing or beating the drums of war should explain clearly

to the American people what they think the costs and benefits would be. I'm not

one of those people.

Because what I've said is, is that we have

a window through which we can resolve this issue peacefully. We have put

forward an international framework that is applying unprecedented pressure. The

Iranians just stated that they are willing to return to the negotiating table,

and we've got the opportunity, even as we maintain that pressure, to see how it

plays out.

Netanyahu returns to Israel. From the perspective of

a hawk, his trip was an utter failure. He came here looking for a partner for

war but leaves feeling lonely. War is much less likely.

Well played, Mr. President. And, Mitt, thank you.