Op-Ed: Oafish Diplomacy
Diplomacy: Did the president of the United States walk out on the premier of Israel, leaving him to wait while he had dinner? Yes, he did, in a bid to muscle him. But all he really did was lower the dignity of his office.
For a president who's always talking up the virtue of talk as the best way to resolve problems, he sure had a strange way of dealing with America's best ally in the Middle East.
The Daily Telegraph and the Times of London both reported that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's visit to the White House last Tuesday was a wretched one. Behind closed doors, Obama scrapped the talk and relied on a policy of rudeness instead.
Obama is using disrespect to undermine elected leaders ... the time will come when few will want to talk with him.
He handed Netanyahu 13 demands to sign off on, as part of the "peace process" with the Palestinians. Scrapping all niceties about Netanyahu representing a sovereign state, Obama told the Israeli to sign on or else. He signaled that his aims were all about himself, telling Bibi he had a meeting to go to in Libya in a couple of days, with the Arab League, and needed to show them something.
When an astonished Netanyahu resisted, Obama walked off and ate dinner without inviting his guest.
Telling Netanyahu to wait for him as a means of pressuring him to sign, he added: "Let me know if there's anything new." Netanyahu didn't sign, and wanted nothing to do with Obama after that.
This reeks of Chicago Way godfather politics, not dialogue, and for the most selfish and self-aggrandizing of purposes.
Yes, Obama wanted concessions from Israel. But by bullying, not talking. If Obama disagrees with Netanyahu, the right way to deal with it is to talk — give and take — until both sides reach a deal.
But since this is Israel, and Obama's real aim seems to be to do what he can to topple Netanyahu's shaky coalition so that a leader more to his liking will emerge, Israel got no such courtesies.
The worst part of this, apart from the lack of hospitality, is that it pretty well degrades the office of the presidency.
It tops the crummy treatment of British Prime Minister Gordon Brown when he was denied press conferences, forced to walk through back kitchens and took home cheapskate gifts.
It also tops the "hospitality" the Dalai Lama got, escorted the long way out of the White House through a garbage-strewn patio.
As word gets out about how Obama is using disrespect to undermine elected leaders, the time will come when few will want to talk with him. There's a reason why diplomacy has its courtesies.
Someday we may need one of these insulted leaders' help on something of great importance to us. What will we do then?
If Obama can't refrain from Chicago-style muscle politics, he'll find it eventually comes back on him. In the meantime, the person this boorish diplomacy reflects worst on is Obama himself.