Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu delivers a statement at his office in Jerusalem November 24, 2013.
Baz Ratner/Reuters

Netanyahu’s awkward isolation

Updated
Things haven’t quite gone Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s way lately.
 
Just a couple of months ago, after President Obama scored a diplomatic victory with Syria, Netanyahu not only expected Obama’s policy to fail, he also feared it would further embolden Iran. The opposite happened – the U.S. policy has proven effective, and it was the U.S. president’s approach to the Syrian crisis convinced Iran to come to the table.
 
More recently, Netanyahu tried to derail negotiations with Tehran, which didn’t work. He said any agreement would necessarily be unacceptable, which few considered credible. He demanded that the U.S. take his warnings seriously, but they fell on deaf ears. The more the Israeli leader railed against the very idea of diplomacy, the more Netanyahu found himself on the sidelines.
 
And now that a temporary, six-month deal is in place, Israel has been reduced to saber-rattling, threatening to strike Iran anyway, since Israel is not bound by the international agreement reached over the weekend.
 
Gershom Gorenberg makes the case that Netanyahu is suffering from “Agreement Anxiety Disorder” (via Ed Kilgore).
The link between Netanyahu’s reactions in September and now is what could be called Agreement Anxiety Disorder (AAD): a reflexive certainty that any time an antagonist is willing to make an agreement to end or manage a conflict, the deal is a deception. The only safe agreement would be one in which you make no compromises or concessions, so that you are ready to fight the inevitable next round. Since agreements sans compromises are rare, the very thought of making a deal ignites something between panic and fury, and any friend who advises you to accept the agreement is betraying you. […]
 
With an effort at empathy, one can understand Netanyahu’s anxiety. But Agreement Anxiety Disorder does not lead to good analysis. It doesn’t produce advice that American senators or representatives should accept when choosing their own response to the Iran deal. He knows how to speak your fears, but the poor man is not thinking clearly.
In slightly larger context, the White House had also been warned that diplomacy with Iran would almost automatically derail Israeli-Palestinian talks, which have been quietly underway for several weeks. Indeed, Netanyahu had a subtle warning for Obama: if you care about the Middle East peace process, stop talking to Iran.
 
But the ploy didn’t work, in part because the real opportunity with Iran was/is too important to pass up, and in part because Obama apparently doesn’t see Netanyahu making any real strides in the peace process anyway.
 
And this in turn only isolates Netanyahu further, which makes the Israeli leader that much more furious.
 
I’m reminded of this Dan Drezner piece, on Netanyahu “wigging out,” which ran just seven days ago.
Israeli jaw-jawing about a military strike puts it into a corner with no good exit option. Netanyahu’s definition of a bad nuclear deal seems to include… any nuclear deal. So say that one is negotiated. What can Israel do then? Netanyahu could follow through on his rhetoric and launch a unilateral strike. Maybe that would set Iran back a few years. It would also rupture any deal, accelerate Iran’s nuclear ambitions, invite unconventional retaliation from Iran and its proxies, and isolate Israel even further.
 
If Netanyahu doesn’t follow through on his rhetoric, then every disparaging Israeli quote about Obama’s volte-face on Syria will be thrown back at the Israeli security establishment. Times a hundred.
Anyone prepared to make the case that Netanyahu has handled this well?
 

Benjamin Netanyahu, Foreign Policy, Iran and Israel

Netanyahu's awkward isolation

Updated