Washington at the beginning of the Obama era has the feel of a city that has just been liberated from foreign occupation, or of a person who just snapped out of an inexplicable psychotic episode. The paranoia of the Bush days has passed. The world is no longer divided into children of light and children of darkness.
The standard assessment says that after his return to power, Benjamin Netanyahu will have a tense time when he visits Washington – just as he did during his first term when he faced a president who demanded that he advance a peace process. That assessment isn’t quite right – because this time, Netanyahu is likely to have an even more tension-fraught time than he did in the 90s. In his new term, he won’t be able to count on Congress as a counterweight to the administration in his relations with America.
During his first visit to Washington as prime minister in 1996, Netanyahu spoke before Congress to repeated applause. The part of his speech praising deregulation and tax cuts helped him by warming the hearts of the Republican majority. Today that economic approach is correctly seen as the cause of a worldwide disaster, and the Republicans are a defeated minority. Economic spin won’t help Netanyahu build a responsible image.
More important, Congress’ attitude toward the Arab-Israeli conflict has begun to shift…