(Photo: Wikimedia Commons)
Aluf Benn provides an excellent analysis of Netanyahu's Washington-strategy. Many commentators are convinced that Israel's new prime minister is on a collision course not only with the Europeans but also with the White House. Benn contrasts Netanyahu's strategy so far with that of his predecessor, Ehud Olmert, in order to explain what Bibi might be thinking:
The prime minister is aware of the assumption of many that his rejection of the idea of a Palestinian state, and opposition to withdrawals from the West Bank and the Golan Heights, will result in an inevitable crisis in relations with Obama and propel Israel into political isolation. But he is not afraid. The way he sees it, it's better to come to the White House with a list of demands and requests, and to condition any concession on a quid pro quo, than it is to play the role of yes man to the president and gain nothing in return.
Ehud Olmert emerged from his many talks with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas with the impression that, because of the Palestinians' positions on the so-called core issues, there is no chance for a final-status accord with them - which is why he opted to emphasize Israeli generosity to secure international support. Netanyahu prefers to enter into negotiations with maximalist positions rather than to begin with concessions that may win the world's approval but won't satisfy the other side. He is ready to pay the political price this will exact abroad for the sake of appearing consistent in his positions and preserving his coalition at home (Ha'aretz).
We will see what happens, but for now, Benn's reading seems more persuasive than the hysterical fears of a collapse of US-Israeli relations and of Israel's position in the West. Netanyahu does not seem fazed by the missteps of his foreign minister, Avigdor Lieberman. My sense is that Lieberman will not play a major role in foreign policy at all - Bibi will hold the reins tight here as well as in his economic policy.