Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is a courageous leader and a glutton for punishment. He never hesitates to stand up to those who despise him and his country, and indeed despise the West and the civilization it brought to the world. Some of his critics dream of beheading him if they could. He rebuts their lies, stares them down and corrects the record. He understands that what they seek is not peace, but an opportunity to destroy Israel and the Western civilization it represents.
He stared them down again this week at the United Nations General Assembly, and he’ll be in Washington on Wednesday to visit an American president who clearly doesn’t like him and delights in humiliating him. He gave the assembled diplomats the tutorial they needed, whether they wanted it or not, on life in the real world. We hope the president was listening.
The prime minister applauded the president for recognizing the threat of the Islamic State, or ISIS, but reminded the delegates that there’s still more to recognize. “ISIS and Hamas are branches of the same poisonous tree,” he said. “ISIS and Hamas share a fanatical creed, which they seek to impose well beyond the territory under their control.” Islamic terrorism is a cancer, he said, and “to protect the peace and security of the world we must remove this cancer before it is too late.”
President Obama must absorb this. He came to office thinking there is little moral difference between Israel and Hamas and its Palestinian cohort. He seems to identify more with the Palestinians, observing that Israeli intransigence, not the distortion of Islam, is the infection festering in the Middle East.
He said early on that he wanted a settlement with the Palestinians that would require Israel to retreat to its 1967 borders, before its Islamic neighbors ganged up to go to war and, instead of destroying the Jewish state, got a good country licking themselves. Mr. Netanyahu’s warning of the true aims of Hamas, the Muslim Brotherhood and Iran were ignored. On an afternoon in 2010, the president invited the Israeli prime minister to the White House, presented him with a list of 13 demands, and when Mr. Netanyahu wouldn’t agree to them, rudely told him that he was off to supper with his family and his absence would give Mr. Netanyahu time to reconsider his answer.
The prime minister spent the next hour cooling his heels in the Roosevelt Room and was then summarily dismissed, in a remarkable display of bad manners and diplomatic discourtesy, and told that he hadn’t given sufficient thought to buying the Obama solutions. The president snubbed him on several additional occasions. He once instructed Vice President Joe Biden to tell a group of U.S. senators, assembled to listen to a briefing on Iran’s nuclear program, to “ignore” anything Mr. Netanyahu might say about Iran and its pursuit of the nuclear bomb.
Subsequent meetings of the two heads of state were cool, some more correct than others, but all with lectures from the president, who imagines that he knows more about the region than Mr. Netanyahu or others who actually live and work there.
The occasion on Wednesday is less auspicious than occasions in the past. Mr. Obama has climbed into a coalition of strange allies with his strategy to blunt a fanatic Muslim surge through the region. The president is getting a late education in the reality of that region. We can only hope he’s listening this time to those who, like Mr. Netanyahu, an ally with insights, actually knows what’s going on there.