Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is not one to pull his punches when it comes to American presidents. The assassination of Iranian nuclear scientist Mohsen Fakhrizadeh was not just a particularly daring attack against Iran. It was also Neyantahu’s opening salvo against President-elect Joe Biden in what is already set to be an uneasy relationship. Rather than endearing himself and Israel to the new American president, Bibi instead chose to throw the first punch. His signal to Biden was clear: On Iran policy, Israel calls the shots.
Netanyahu has famously poor relations with Democratic Presidents. His bullying personality and lack of deference to the United States left an aghast Bill Clinton exclaiming “Who’s the f***ing superpower here?” after their first meeting.
His relationship with Barack Obama was even worse. Their first official meeting at the White House in May 2009 was, by all accounts, a disaster—and it went downhill from thereon. But unlike Netanyahu’s approach to Biden today, neither Obama nor Netanyahu actually wanted their relationship to turn sour. The breakdown was not caused on purpose but rather through a series of misunderstandings and misperceptions.
While Netanyahu knew that Obama was likely to request limitations on settlement building, he did not expect Obama to request a “complete settlement freeze,” as soon as possible. Netanyahu felt ambushed, telling his aides afterward that he felt “punched in the nose.” The Obama team, meanwhile, believed that the request on settlements had been well telegraphed in the weeks preceding the meeting.
Read the full article in Newsweek.