Saturday, March 27, 2010
The president's meeting with Israeli leader Benhamin Netanyahu said a lot about this man we're still getting to know.
According to an international intelligence newsletter, the Israelis decided that coming to Washington in the midst of the climax of health care reform was a good strategic move; they figured Obama would be so distracted that it would ease the tensions created by that embarrassing little announcement of new West Bank settlements during Joe Biden's visit.
It didn't quite work that way.
The Israelis had a big bluff planned; they were going to take the offensive, claiming they were being unfairly chastised. They could warn that an important historical alliance was being threatened.
They don't have any chips - Israel needs America far more than America needs Israel. But they're worried that this president is friendly to Arab states and they planned to bluster a bit and bring him back into line.
Reports say the American president was very interested in Netanyahu's explanation for the diplomatic screwup and very unimpressed with his attempts to explain that there was no way he could have known that the announcement would happen just as Obama's Number Two man was speaking about hope for a peaceful Jerusalem.
And then the president played his hand.
He did something no president has ever done to an Israeli leader. He got up, said he had dinner plans and left the Israelis with his staff.
"If you come up with something new," he said, "call me."
It was brilliant. It put Israel on notice that it wouldn't be pushing this president around. It left the Israelis to try to make good on their blunder. And it reportedly freaked them out so much that they left the White House, fearful that the phone line they'd been offered in the White House was bugged.
Israeli newspapers describe their leader as returning home "humiliated".
I want to do a little dance! This is diplomacy!! This is dealing with foreign leaders with brains, not brawn. This is making it clear where we stand without threats...with some finesse. And this is clearly a guy who knows how to play poker.
The Chicago paper did an article on Obama as poker player a few years back. It's enlightening.
I'm beginning to have some hope for this administration again.
Obama The Poker Player