The famously poor personal chemistry between President Obama and Prime Minister Netanyahu has had six years to take its toll. With a tense situation in Israel, and a bad deal with Iran on the horizon, relations seem unlikely to improve suddenly. Robert Satloff speculates about the next two years:
On one hand, with midterm elections having produced a more Republican, Israel-friendly (and Netanyahu-admiring) Congress, and with Barack Obama now a lame duck, Jerusalem has reason to think that the worst is now over. Indeed, it may be a good time for the president to decide to avoid head-on collisions with Israel and focus the last quarter of his presidency instead on the long list of common challenges the two countries face. On the other hand, if Obama is a lame duck, he’s also a free bird. With two years remaining in office and no elections left to contest, the president now has the latitude to pursue relations on issues relevant to Israel without regard to the domestic political fallout—or concerns about further riling Bibi. Depending on the path he follows, his party might protest and Hillary Clinton might move more quickly and dramatically to distance herself from the boss she so faithfully served as secretary of state, but lame-duck presidents have legacy on their mind, not payback from party bosses.