On his own and through his proxies in what is called the US “Israel Lobby,” Benjamin Netanyahu expended enormous political and financial capital in attempt to sink President Obama’s nuclear deal with Iran. Though the deal is already done, the pro-Likud lobby in Washington with the backing of a significant number of elected Members of the House and Senate is still determined to turn back the hands of time to a US war-footing against Iran. They may well succeed, particularly as most presidential candidates have promised to rip up the Iran deal on day one.
But Netanyahu is no dummy. Once he saw the writing on the wall — even if only temporarily — he decided to make lemonade from Obama’s lemons. “OK, you are going to go through with this deal with Iran? Pay me! You want rapprochement and trade with Iran? Pay me. You’re not going to invade Iran? Pay me. First I am going to humiliate you, then you are going to pay me.”
So Bibi’s plan B is now in full motion. First he blindsided the White House by suddenly canceling a meeting with Obama scheduled for this month. Much preparation had already gone into the meeting and a last-minute cancelation sent a very clear message to the White House.
But the coup de grace is Netanyahu’s masterful manner of cancelation. He didn’t bother to notify the White House of his change of plans. Instead, the news came out today in a report by the liberal Israeli newspaper Haaretz.
White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest tried to put a brave face on Bibi’s backhand, but his explanation lacked believability:
There’s no reason to consider this a snub. I think the question is simply a matter of scheduling. We would have preferred to have heard about that in person before reading about it in media reports. I think that’s just good manners.
Timing is everything, and in this Netanyahu is also a master. As Obama was reading in the media that his March schedule just got a bit lighter, Vice President Joe Biden was on a plane to Tel Aviv with the White House’s latest offer of significantly increased US military aid to Israel as a way of placating Israel’s anger over the Iran deal. Last year’s $3.1 billion in US military aid to Israel was no longer acceptable, Netanyahu made clear. Instead Biden is expected to swipe the national credit card for a super-size contribution of between $4.2 and $4.5 billion in military aid — in addition to the customary half billion in missile defense assistance and another billion worth of military equipment stored in Israel.