Churchill and the Netanyahu-Obama Divide
The last meeting between the Israeli and American leaders was not really different from any of the previous ones — and, as usual, no political commentators were really required to tell us commoners what it was all about. This was yet again the role of body-language experts, as looking at the two watching each other disdainfully told the story much better than any political pundit could.
Such animosity can be wholly personal, as leaders are also human beings who can sincerely dislike each other. These two fall within this category, but this is just the tip of the iceberg. In this case, there is something much more profound, and in order to understand it, let us remember the great Winston Churchill, the first-ever person (there were seven more after him) to be granted honorary American citizenship by Congress.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is on record as a great admirer of Churchill’s. US President Barack Obama, on the other hand, is not. In fact, one of the first things he did upon assuming his post was to remove the statue of Churchill from the Oval Office and place it elsewhere in the White House. One explanation for this move was provided by then-Mayor of London Boris Johnson, who said that Obama resented Churchill’s attitude towards the Kenyan struggle for independence.
Obama assured Britons that he really liked “the guy’’ (Churchill), but preferred to have a bust of Martin Luther King, Jr. in his office instead.
Whatever Obama’s reason, his gesture was symbolic, as is the fact that Netanyahu wants to be remembered as the Israeli Churchill. And herein lies the the true unbridgeable gap between the two.
Churchill was nationalist, as is Netanyahu. Obama is not. Obama gained political capital by apologizing for America. Netanyahu earns his by exhibiting pride in Israel.
Churchill warned the world about dictators; Netanyahu talks about democracy as a litmus test for the real peace intentions of Arab partners. Other than Russian President Vladimir Putin, Obama is the greatest appeaser of some of the worst dictators in the world. The point is that Obama and Netanyahu represent two diametrically opposed political cultures — two totally different historic legacies — poles apart, both philosophically and politically. So, their differences are not about settlements or personal snubs. They are far more profound.