No handshake from Obama so far in 2015
* Tom Gross: Obama was happy to congratulate the Russian, Chinese and Iranian despots for their rigged elections, as well as praising the presidents of Turkey and Egypt for their victories. Leaders of other major Western democracies have sent congratulations this week to Netanyahu. But from Obama, so far only silence.
[Update, March 20: Obama has now finally called Netanyahu to congratulate him but only after everyone from German Chancellor Angela Merkel to the head of the Syrian opposition, had already done so.]
* Jonathan Schanzer: The era of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu [is] coming to an end,” read one Reuters headline. Similarly, Slate declared Netanyahu to be “Israel’s Sore Loser,” explaining that “he has botched his re-election the same way he has botched everything else.” Hundreds of other news items and analytical articles in recent weeks prophesied the demise of Israel’s embattled prime minister.
* “Editors should be cringing at what passed for news last week. Maybe a few corrections will be issued. Perhaps a few clarifications, too. But if there’s takeaway for them, it is this: The biennial ‘Running of the Israel Experts’ is dangerous. Few seem to understand very well how the Israeli electoral system works. One of them, perhaps, is Bibi Netanyahu.”
* Wall Street Journal editorial: “Obama might also reflect on his own contribution to Netanyahu’s victory. Israelis surrounded by hostile nations sworn to their destruction are most likely to take risks for peace when they feel secure in America’s support. But Obama’s looming concessions to Iran’s nuclear program have united Israelis and Arabs in opposition. The President has also been so personally and overtly hostile to Netanyahu, even trying to stop and then belittling his speech to Congress, that he invited a backlash. It isn’t Obama’s habit to admit error, or to be gracious to his opponents, but it would serve the interests of both nations if he were.”
* Alan Dershowitz: “Those around the world who are upset with Netanyahu’s electoral victory should put much of the responsibility for Israel’s rightward turn squarely where it belongs: on the Palestinian Authority. At least twice over the last 15 years, Israel has offered the Palestinians two-state solutions. Israel is a vibrant democracy, in which people vote their experience, their fear and their hope. These hopes were dashed by Arafat’s rejection and Abbas’ refusal to accept generous peace offers. Obama also contributed to the election results in Israel by refusing to listen to Israeli concerns -- concerns shared by Israelis of every political stripe -- about the impending deal with Iran. If Israelis voted their fears, these were not irrational; they were based on the history of the region.”
* Eli Lake: “The experts who said Netanyahu was vulnerable before the election insisted that the vote was a referendum on him. His overwhelming victory shows that it was equally a referendum on U.S. President Barack Obama. Netanyahu gave voters a choice between whom to trust more with their nation’s security. The result was clear.”
* Please “like” these dispatches on Facebook here www.facebook.com/TomGrossMedia, where you can also find other items that are not in these dispatches.
1. Obama happy to congratulate Russian, Chinese, Iranian despots for their rigged elections
2. Indian PM congratulates Bibi in Hebrew; leaders of other democracies send goodwill messages (but not Obama)
3. Netanyahu’s choices for Israel’s next coalition
4. Netanyahu and Israel’s Arab population
5. “White House: It is wrong to encourage non-Arab Israelis to vote to offset foreign bankrolled encouragement of Arab-Israelis to vote”
6. Haaretz’s bitter post-election coverage
7. “Obama loses his bid to defeat a U.S. ally” (Wall St Journal, March 18, 2015)
8. “The role of the Palestinian Authority in Israel’s election results” (By Alan Dershowitz, Gatestone Institute, March 18, 2015)
9. “Why the media always get Israeli elections wrong” (By Jonathan Schanzer, Politico, March 18, 2015)
10. “Israel chose Bibi over Barack” (By Eli Lake, Bloomberg View, March 18, 2015)
[Notes below by Tom Gross]
OBAMA HAPPY TO CONGRATULATE RUSSIAN, CHINESE, IRANIAN DESPOTS FOR THEIR RIGGED ELECTIONS
While the White House has so far avoided sending any message of congratulations to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for his decisive victory in Tuesday’s democratic Israeli elections, Obama did congratulate Turkey’s Erdogan on his presidential win. He also called both Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood leader Mohammed Morsi (who had denounced Jews as the descendants of pigs and apes) within hours of his victory, and also later his successor Egyptian President Abdel al-Sisi. Obama called to congratulate President Rouhani of Iran on his election. And he called to congratulate Vladimir Putin. Nor did he neglect to congratulate Xi Jinping on his “election” to lead China’s Communist party.
But if you are Israeli, and an American ally, Obama is too petty to make the call.
INDIAN PM CONGRATULATES BIBI IN HEBREW; LEADERS OF OTHER DEMOCRACIES SEND GOODWILL MESSAGES
By contrast, European leaders such as British Prime Minister David Cameron immediately sent congratulations to Netanyahu, as did other leaders from the world’s most important democracies such as Canada’s Prime Minister Stephen Harper.
And Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi even congratulated Netanyahu in Hebrew. “Mazal Tov Haver” (congratulations my friend).
Stephen Harper: “I congratulate Prime Minister Netanyahu on the election results. We look forward to working with the new government to be established. Israel has no greater friend than Canada”.
British Prime Minister David Cameron: “Congratulations to PM Netanyahu on the election results. As one of Israel’s closest friends, Britain looks forward to working with the new government.”
Minister of Foreign Affairs of the European Union, Frederica Mogrini, also congratulated Netanyahu.
But from Obama, silence for the winner of the only democratic election in the Middle East.
(Here is a round-up of Obama’s past calls to despots.)
NETANYAHU’S CHOICES FOR ISRAEL’S NEXT COALITION
Benjamin Netanyahu has three main options on how to form the next Israeli coalition, which would need at least 61 Members of the Knesset.
(1) A right-religious coalition (67 members)
Comprising of Likud (30), Kulanu (10), Jewish Home (8), Shas (7), United Torah Judaism (6), Yisrael Beytenu (6)
(2) A center-right mainly secular coalition (65 members)
Comprising of Likud (30), Yesh Atid (11), Kulanu (10), Jewish Home (8), Yisrael Beytenu (6)
(3) A national unity government (up to 81 members)
Comprising of Likud (30), Zionist Union (Labor) (24), Yesh Atid (11) and/or Kulanu (10), Yisrael Beytenu (6)
Tom Gross writes: Although most experts have dismissed the idea, I wouldn’t completely rule out Netanyahu’s choosing a national unity government - in spite of his campaign rhetoric he may prefer to govern more to the center than to the right. It would certainly be my preference.
NETANYAHU AND ISRAEL’S ARAB POPULATION
Netanyahu’s outgoing government was the biggest investor in Arab development and education in Israel’s history. Netanyahu’s remarks about Arab-Israeli voting which have been skewed out of context by much of the international media, based on Haaretz’s selective reporting of them, are out of sync with Netanyahu’s outreach efforts to Israeli Arabs. Indeed the Likud has quite a number of Arab members and voters.
Most international media have deliberately avoided reporting or even mentioning Netanyahu’s considerable efforts to help Israeli-Arabs.
Among the exceptions who have at least mentioned them in passing: U.S. News and World Report
“WHITE HOUSE: IT IS WRONG TO ENCOURAGE NON-ARAB ISRAELIS TO VOTE TO OFFSET FOREIGN BANKROLLED ENCOURAGEMENT OF ARAB-ISRAELIS TO VOTE”
Israeli political expert Dr. Aaron Lerner writes, in response to remarks to the international media by Obama’s White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest:
“Let’s get this straight: The Likud Party didn’t encourage its members to try to interfere with Israeli Arabs as they went about participating in the Knesset elections. All the Likud Party did was encourage its own members to vote.
“And while American (State Department) money bankrolled the efforts to get out the Israeli-Arab vote, that doesn’t mean that it is somehow unfair for the Likud to bring this phenomenon to the attention of their members so that they appreciate that the outcome of the elections will reflect a higher participation rate of people who are not voting Likud – in this case most of Israeli-Arabs, and thus a Likud victory requires a higher participation rate of Likud supporters than would otherwise be the case.
“The spokesman of the president of the nation that is the champion of democracy in the world is attacking an Israeli political party for encouraging its members to vote!”
HAARETZ’S BITTER POST-ELECTION COVERAGE
One might even say that every time a non-extreme left wing Israeli looks at Haaretz it brings him or her closer to supporting Bibi...
While Jon Stewart went into overdrive with his slurs on Netanyahu using words like “shits” when talking about him yesterday, and the New York Times editorial desk has worked itself into hysteria about what it denounced as Israel’s “ugly” election, below are some more calmly written articles.
I attach them as a counterpoint to some of the inaccurate (and occasionally) vicious coverage of the Israeli elections to be found elsewhere in the media. (The authors of all four articles are subscribers to this list.)
-- Tom Gross
PRESIDENT OBAMA LOSES HIS BID TO DEFEAT A U.S. ALLY
President Obama loses his bid to defeat a U.S. ally.
Wall Street Journal (editorial)
March 18, 2015
The Israeli election that looked like a cliffhanger when the polls closed on Tuesday had turned into a decisive victory for Benjamin Netanyahu and his Likud Party by Wednesday morning. With at least 29 seats in the parliament compared to 24 for the main center-left party, Israel’s Prime Minister should be able to put together a ruling coalition of center-right parties that is more manageable than his last majority.
The victory is a remarkable personal triumph for Mr. Netanyahu, who is now Israel’s second longest-serving Prime Minister after David Ben-Gurion. He gambled that he could assemble a more stable center-right coalition, as well as by giving a high-stakes speech to the U.S. Congress on Iran two weeks before the election, and in the final days stressing above all the security themes that must be Israel’s abiding concern.
Mr. Netanyahu and Likud were trailing in the polls in the final week as the opposition stressed the rising cost of food and housing and an economy that had slowed to about 3% growth from near 6% in 2010. But in the closing days Mr. Netanyahu played up that foreigners (read: President Obama) wanted him defeated, and he rejected statehood for Palestinians, reversing a position he had taken in 2009. The reversal gave the impression of opportunism, even desperation, but it also rallied conservative voters who had hinted at growing “Bibi fatigue” after his long tenure as premier.
While the results may dismay Mr. Netanyahu’s detractors abroad, especially in the White House, they surely reflect Israel’s security consensus. Opposition leader Isaac Herzog also opposed Mr. Obama’s emerging deal with Iran.
As for peace with the Palestinians, Israelis have seen Gaza become a launching pad for missile attacks on innocent civilians after Israel left. They have seen the Palestinian Authority reject reasonable land-for-peace offers and the terror group Hamas join the PA’s governing coalition. Israelis have shown they will take risks for peace—recall Oslo in 1993 and Ehud Barak’s sweeping concessions in 2000 that Yasser Arafat rejected—but they are not suicidal.
President Obama might also reflect on his own contribution to Mr. Netanyahu’s victory. Israelis surrounded by hostile nations sworn to their destruction are most likely to take risks for peace when they feel secure in America’s support. But Mr. Obama’s looming concessions to Iran’s nuclear program have united Israelis and Arabs in opposition. The President has also been so personally and overtly hostile to Mr. Netanyahu, even trying to stop and then belittling his speech to Congress, that he invited a backlash.
It isn’t Mr. Obama’s habit to admit error, or to be gracious to his opponents, but it would serve the interests of both nations if he were. Israel’s raucous democracy is imperfect, like America’s, but it is the only reliable one in the bloody cauldron of the Middle East.
THE ROLE OF THE PALESTINIAN AUTHORITY IN ISRAEL’S ELECTION RESULTS
The Role of the Palestinian Authority in Israel’s Election Results
By Alan M. Dershowitz
March 18, 2015
Those around the world who are upset with Prime Minister’s Benjamin Netanyahu electoral victory over the Zionist Camp party should put much of the responsibility for Israel’s rightward turn squarely where it belongs: on the Palestinian Authority (PA).
At least twice over the last 15 years, Israel has offered the Palestinians extraordinarily generous two-state solutions. The first time was in 2000-2001 when Ehud Barak and Bill Clinton offered the Palestinians more than 90% of the West Bank and all of the Gaza Strip, with a capital in Jerusalem. Yassir Arafat turned down the offer and started an intifada, in which 4000 people were killed. This self-inflicted wound by the leader of the PA contributed greatly to the weakening of Israel’s peace camp, most particularly of Ehud Barak’s Labor party. The current Zionist Camp party, which is an offshoot of Labor, has continued to suffer from that weakening.
Then again, in 2007, Ehud Olmert offered the Palestinians an even more generous resolution, to which Mahmoud Abbas failed to respond positively. This failure also contributed to the weakening of the Israeli center-left and the strengthening of the right.
Israel is a vibrant democracy, in which people vote their experience, their fear and their hope. In 2000-2001 and 2007, most Israelis had high hopes for a peaceful resolution of the Palestinian conflict. These hopes were dashed by Arafat’s rejection and Abbas’ refusal to accept generous peace offers. It is not surprising therefore, that so many Israelis now vote their fear instead of their hope.
The Obama administration also contributed to the election results in Israel by refusing to listen to Israeli concerns -- concerns shared by Israelis of every political stripe -- about the impending deal with Iran. Many Israelis have given up any hope of influencing the Obama administration to demand more from the Iranians. The current deal contains a sunset provision which all but guarantees that Iran will have nuclear weapons within a decade. Zionist Camp leader Isaac Herzog made a serious mistake when he said he trusted President Obama to make a good deal with the Iranians. Few Israelis share that trust, as do few members of Congress, and few Sunni Arab governments. That lack of trust was reflected in voting for a Prime Minister who has been more confrontational and less trusting.
If Israelis voted their fears, these were not entirely irrational fears; they were based on the history of the region.
The international community, academics and the media tend to have short memories. They will blame Netanyahu, and especially his campaign rhetoric, for a result of which they disapprove. But Netanyahu’s rhetoric found a receptive audience because many Israeli voters have long memories. They remember what the leaders of the Palestinian Authority, the Obama administration, the Iranian mullahs and the United Nations have done and said with regard to Israel. They remember the lethal responses to earlier peace offers.
So let’s not look at a snapshot of these election results. Instead, let’s look at a videotape of the last 15 years in order to understand how Israel’s democracy produced the current election results.
Only time will tell whether these results will engender a better resolution of the Iranian threat, the Palestinian stalemate and other issues of concern to the world. But history has shown that positive results can never be achieved by directing pressure unilaterally at the Israeli government, and not at the Palestinian Authority, the Iranian mullahs, the Obama administration and the international community.
Already, the spokespersons for the PA have predicted that the reelection of Netanyahu marks the end of any realistic peace process, without reminding their listeners of how Palestinian intransigence marked the end of earlier peace processes and impacted this election. They are once again threatening to bring their grievances to the International Criminal Court and other international institutions, which would surely be a setback to any realistic prospects for a resolution.
So instead of casting the blame on Netanyahu and the Israeli right for all the problems of the Middle East, let all sides look at themselves in the mirror of reality and decide how they can contribute to making the world a safer place, by preventing Iran from ever obtaining a nuclear arsenal and by encouraging a compromise resolution of the Palestinian issue that protects Israel’s security while providing the Palestinians with a viable, demilitarized state.
WHY THE MEDIA ALWAYS GET ISRAELI ELECTIONS WRONG
Why the Media Always Get Israeli Elections Wrong
By Jonathan Schanzer
March 18, 2015
The era of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu [is] coming to an end,” read one Reuters headline. Similarly, Slate declared Netanyahu to be “Israel’s Sore Loser,” explaining that “he has botched his re-election the same way he has botched everything else.” Hundreds of other news items and analytical articles in recent weeks prophesied the demise of Israel’s embattled prime minister.
Today, of course, a triumphant Netanyahu is laying plans for a new government, and the media should be asking themselves why they tend to make the same sort of Dewey-Defeats-Truman mistakes, cycle after cycle, about Israeli elections. During the last round in 2013, the New Yorker’s David Remnick proclaimed that “the story of the election is the implosion of the center-left and the vivid and growing strength of the radical right.” Remnick was not alone, either. Pundits across the board predicted the meteoric rise of right-wing politician Naftali Bennett. Indeed, this was going to be the “Darth Bennett” government. In the end, Bennett’s party, Jewish Home, mustered only 12 seats in the Knesset, while centrist Yair Lapid played a far more pivotal role in the formation of Netanyahu’s government.
It’s a small consolation, perhaps, that observers outside of Israel aren’t the only ones who often can’t predict what the political system there will do. Israeli experts often get their predictions badly wrong too. A lot of that has to do with polling data that doesn’t ever tell the full picture. But there is a lot more to it than that.
Western analysts often view the Israeli parliamentary system through the prism of our own very different system and turn it into a binary equation. We vote blue or we vote red. We vote for one politician or the other. Undecided voters ultimately weigh their priorities and vote their conscience.
But that’s checkers, while Israeli voters and politicians must play chess. Indeed, it’s entirely possible that Israeli voters don’t always fully appreciate the implication of the voting game they’re playing. Every vote in their multi-party system is a rather grueling gambit. If they vote for the party they truly like and support, they may not get the government they desire. For example, for those who support the peace process, a vote for the leftist Meretz party might mean fewer seats for the center-left Labor party’s Isaac Herzog, who is the Israeli politician with arguably the best chance of jump-starting diplomacy. Similarly, for security hawks, a vote for rightist politician Avigdor Liberman might mean fewer seats for Netanyahu and his center-right Likud party, which is best suited to pursue a security agenda. Netanyahu himself appeared to be playing this game very late on election day Tuesday, when he posted a warning on Facebook that Likud needed to peel away allegiance from the smaller right-wing parties.
Israeli voters understand this dynamic. They are aware that their votes have consequences well beyond the simple numbers of seats each party gains. But it is impossible for them to foresee how their votes will impact the final tally. They simply cannot know what impact their vote will have on the ultimate composition of the government. It is for this reason that an estimated 10 percent of Israeli voters are undecided on the day of elections. One could argue that Israeli voters are undecided even after they cast a ballot.
The complexity of the Israeli system has often prompted pollsters to ask two key questions ahead of elections: Which party will you vote for? And who do you want to see as prime minister? The answer is not always the same. And this was apparently one of the indicators that gave Team Netanyahu hope, even as the eulogies for the prime minister began to appear in high-profile publication after publication. Indeed, fortunes can change overnight for Israeli politicians. And in this case, they did.
The Israeli system has not always been this way. The Israelis, between 1996 and 2003, experimented with a system whereby voters could cast one ballot for their prime minister and another for their party. But as my colleague Emanuele Ottolenghi explains, this encouraged ticket-splitting. “Many voters rejected Labor and Likud Knesset candidates, opting instead for smaller parties with sharper issue profiles, leaving the two big parties with less bargaining power than ever.” The system created inherently unstable governments, so lawmakers reverted to the one vote system, making it somewhat easier for the bigger vote-getters to bring together the 61 out of 120 Knesset seats to form a government.
The revised system hasn’t exactly made things more stable in recent years. We continue to watch governments crumble every two years—short of a full four-year term—because of intra-coalition squabbles.
But even coalition politics appears to be lost on Western observers. As polls showed that Netanyahu’s numbers were flagging, and the premature schadenfreude began to build, analysts failed to note that Netanyahu could lose the battle by failing to gain the most seats but still win the war by being in a position to pull together enough right-wing coalition members from other parties for Israeli President Reuven Rivlin to assign him the task of forming a government.
Despite a herd mentality that has produced two straight elections’ worth of failed analysis, few have had the integrity to admit they were wrong. Business Insider’s Armin Rosen is a rare breed. As the results trickled in, he admitted on Twitter, “Man, I wrote some profoundly wrong [stuff] about the Israeli election today.”
As Netanyahu sets out to build his new government—one that could just as easily include or exclude parties from the left–we are reminded there are just too many reasons not to put our trust in Israeli polls and predictions. Yet the media’s familiarity with Israel’s open system has bred a false sense of understanding, which is sometimes exacerbated by flawed polls. And, in the case of Netanyahu, who is roundly loathed by the American left, that lack of understanding could very easily be influenced by contempt and hope for his demise.
Editors should be cringing at what passed for news last week. Maybe a few corrections will be issued. Perhaps a few clarifications, too. But if there’s takeaway for them, it is this: The biennial “Running of the Israel Experts” is dangerous. Many get gored. Few walk away without a scratch. And even fewer seem to understand very well how the Israeli electoral system works.
One of them, perhaps, is Bibi Netanyahu.
ISRAEL CHOSE BIBI OVER BARACK
Israel Chose Bibi Over Barack
By Eli Lake
March 18, 2015
The experts who said Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was vulnerable before yesterday’s national election insisted that the vote was a referendum on him. His overwhelming victory shows that it was equally a referendum on U.S. President Barack Obama. Netanyahu gave voters a choice between whom to trust more with their nation’s security. The result was clear.
To understand how the political dynamics played out, consider Netanyahu’s comments on the eve of the vote. Asked in an interview with the right-leaning website NRG if there was any chance for a Palestinian state under another Netanyahu government, he declared there was none.
Lots of journalists and analysts saw it as a reversal of the prime minister’s speech in 2009 at Bar Ilan University, in which he laid out his vision for a demilitarized Palestinian nation. But the context here is important. Netanyahu prefaced his answer by stating something very obvious: “I think that anyone who is going to establish a Palestinian state today and evacuate lands is giving attack grounds to the radical Islam against the state of Israel.”
This was not fear-mongering. It was something Israelis have been grappling with for a decade. Following then-prime minister Ariel Sharon’s decision to unilaterally uproot Jewish settlements and remove troops from Gaza in 2005, Hamas took over the territory. It didn’t happen all at once. But after Hamas won parliamentary elections in 2006 and the Fatah faction of the Palestinian Authority refused to seat its ministers, Hamas fighters expelled the Fatah loyalists from Gaza’s security agencies and took control of the territory.
Since then, Hamas has spent most of its resources preparing for battle. There have been three Gaza wars since the Sharon pullout, and most Israelis fear that a similar withdrawal from the West Bank would yield the same results. This concern has increased over the last year as Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas -- Israel’s peace partner -- has been trying form a unity government with Hamas, a jihadist organization committed to Israel’s destruction.
Of course, Israel and Netanyahu are not blameless in this. Netanyahu’s failure to curb settlement growth in the West Bank has convinced Palestinians that they have no Israeli partner. The Israeli presence in the West Bank has resulted in the detention of thousands of Palestinians -- many of them in the teens.
But only a sliver of Jewish Israelis support an unconditional withdrawal from that territory. Even Netanyahu’s center-left opposition, the Zionist Union, has abandoned the idea of a unilateral pullout. In their campaign, its leaders promised to pursue negotiations, but didn’t promise to cede any territory Israel won in the 1967 war or to re-divide Israel’s capital, Jerusalem.
Looking ahead, it’s important to consider a much-ignored part of Netanyahu’s NRG interview. He said he anticipated renewed international pressure to force an Israeli withdrawal from the West Bank. If so, the question is whether the U.S. will join in, pushing Israel to abandon the West Bank. As Democratic Representative Adam Schiff suggested on CNN, if the White House interprets Netanyahu’s pre-election statement as a new Israeli policy, the U.S. could decide not to veto a future U.N. Security resolution recognizing Palestinian statehood.
But these hypotheticals are overblown. Netanyahu is a politician. Politicians say all kinds of things in campaign mode that they don’t end up doing when they govern. Netanyahu opposed a two-state solution in the 1990s, but as prime minister he signed the Wye River Accords, which built up the Palestinian Authority’s security services and further committed Israel to a two-state solution. Netanyahu campaigned in 2008 against Sharon’s unilateral withdrawal from Gaza, but then gave the Bar Ilan speech in 2009 and agreed to a partial settlement freeze at the request of the White House.
Obama is also a politician. In 2012 he said he wasn’t bluffing when he pledged he would not allow Iran to acquire a nuclear weapon. Netanyahu campaigned on the simple message that Obama was indeed bluffing. The deal Obama’s diplomats are now trying to close would likely leave Iran in possession of thousands of centrifuges and expire in 10 years. Yes, there would be increased monitoring of its nuclear program, but Iran would remain a threshold nuclear state, capable of using its infrastructure to make a bomb when it saw fit.
That’s something neither Netanyahu nor his opposition could accept. The Zionist Union skewered Netanyahu for taking his grievances with Obama public, saying his alienation of Obama was partly to blame for the bad nuclear deal. Netanyahu turned this attack on its head. In his Washington speech this month he warned Congress about Obama’s diplomacy. At home, he accused the opposition of lacking the fortitude to stand up to an American president who was willing to sacrifice Israel’s security for a legacy agreement with Iran.
Netanyahu’s political instincts were correct. In re-electing him, a large plurality of Israelis agreed that Obama is not to be trusted. The question now for Obama is whether he thinks Netanyahu was bluffing or telling the truth in his pre-election interview. I suppose it all comes down to a matter of trust.