President Obama has been trading barbs of late with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
They’re tossing them in public at each other. I’m wondering, though: Each man has a secure phone line to the other’s office. What might a private conversation sound like at this moment:
Obama: Hello, Bibi? This is Barack. You got a few minutes?
Netanyahu: Sure thing, Barack. Hey, I can call you “Barack,” right? I heard about that crap over your addressing (German Chancellor) Merkel by her first name, Angela. What nonsense.
Obama: Sure thing, Bibi. No problem. Hey, let’s set aside all this name-calling and get down to brass tacks. You know why I didn’t want you to speak to Congress. First of all, John Boehner messed up by not advising me about the invitation. Second of all, you’ve got an election coming up and we just don’t usually invite foreign leaders to make high-profile public speeches so close to an election. That’s been the practice for as long as I can remember.
Netanyahu: Yes, I understand. But you have to understand something about my position here on Iran and those nuclear talks. Iran is a neighbor of ours. Those crazies sit just a few hundred miles from Jerusalem. I worry about them every hour of every day I’m awake. I’ve got to make the case that no deal is better than a bad deal. You’re sitting in Washington, a long way from the Middle East. You have the comfort of distance. We don’t have it here.
Obama: Absolutely, I get it. But understand that we have a tradition in this country of putting partisanship aside when it concerns foreign policy. In this country, as in yours, we have only one head of government at a time. Boehner’s invitation is seen as an intrusion in our foreign policy tradition. The president’s team negotiates deals. Sure, we take advice from legislators, but their job is to make laws, not to engage in diplomacy.
Netanyahu: OK. Here’s what I think we — you and I — ought to do. Let’s quit sniping. We know you love Israel and we love the United States, too, Barack. Let’s just cool the rhetoric until we get this negotiation completed with Iran. If the nut jobs in Tehran reject whatever plan you and your international partners come up with, then you and I can speak with one voice — as we’ve sought to do before.
Obama: But what if Iran accepts the deal?
Netanyahu: We’ll decide then what to do. Personally, I’m hoping they reject it, if only because I want us to be friends in public the way we are in private.
Obama: Deal, Bibi. Let me make just one request: If you decide to bomb the Iranian nuke plants, give us a heads-up, just to show Boehner how friends are supposed to interact with each other.
Netanyahu: Will do, Barack.