Peter Beinart complains that Obama gives in to pressure:
The story of Obama’s relationship to Netanyahu and his American Jewish allies is, fundamentally, a story of acquiescence.
Beinart isn’t wrong about Obama’s acquiescence, but it is misleading to think that this is a departure from how Obama operates the rest of the time. There are very few times over the last three years when Obama has not acquiesced in the face of significant political resistance. It has long been Obama’s habit to accommodate entrenched interests and to yield to implacable opposition. As he has moved from Chicago to Washington, the interests he has to accommodate have changed, but his instinct to accommodate them remains intact. It may be that Obama “took office with a distinctly progressive vision of Jewish identity and the Jewish state, one shaped by the Chicago Jewish community that helped launch his political career,” as Beinart says, but the same could be said of his opposition to the war in Iraq, which was also shaped by the constituency he represented here in Chicago. If anyone expected his opposition to the war in Iraq to translate into a broader rejection of Bush-era policies, he has been disabused of that notion. The same thing has happened on issues related to Israel.
As he recounts Obama’s record on these issues, Beinart explains why the administration bungled the demand for a settlement freeze:
For its part, the Obama team badly underestimated the difficulty getting a settlement freeze. Top administration officials believed that merely by publicly asserting his wishes, Obama would create so much political pressure inside Israel that Netanyahu would have to acquiesce [bold mine-DL].
Put another way, the administration expected Netanyahu to behave towards him in the same way that Obama has typically behaved when confronted with significant pressure, and it didn’t happen. When it didn’t happen immediately, the administration was unprepared to do anything to back up its demands, and the entire exercise ended in failure. This isn’t a story of Obama “betraying” his ideals so much as it is one of completely misreading the political landscape both here and in Israel.