True, Netanyahu’s brilliant play with the politics of fear worked. But what happens next? Now, he is also riding a tiger insofar as his leeway to restart talks with Palestinians gets limited because he has committed in black and white terms to something (which everyone probably knew but was afraid to say), namely, ‘nyet’ to a Palestinian state. The over-emphasis on the US (as if we are in a unipolar world still) — and the pervasive negative feeling bordering on hatred toward Barack Obama among such a big chunk of American commentators — should not make us oblivious of the fact that the opinion against Netanyahu’s hardline is even more pronounced in Europe than in the White House. Europe also, by the way, has just appointed a new special envoy on the Middle East (whose main credential seems to be that he won’t pussyfoot like Tony Blair did.) The point is, Israel’s doublespeak on Islamist militancy — raising the spectre of Hamas or Hezbollah while at the same time trading with al-Qaeda outfits in Syria who are only inches away from the ISIS — suggests that cold-blooded expediency rather than principles are at work. If so, Obama deserves an ounce of kindness from our part. For, at the very least, his policies can also be seen in a similar vein — it is in the US’ interests to regard Iran and Syria’s Bashar as a factor of stability, no matter what Netanyahu says or does. Obama has never spoken of Iran being a benign partner (although it could be, arguably) and would know fully well that Iran, notwithstanding a nuclear deal, will robustly continue to pursue an independent foreign policy that is tailored to serve its national interests rather than to please Washington or to ingratiate itself with the West. Therefore, all that Obama would hope for is that on the basis of a congruence of interests, US and Iran can have a selective engagement on issues such as the ISIS threat. In Obama’s judgment, it will only exhaust American power if it were to use military power to seek solutions to political issues. To my mind, that is sensible thinking, and his problem is fundamentally that he is a little bit ahead of the times in his own country.
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