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Obama’s rocky few days, Netanyahu’s household problems

January 20, 2010 Leave a comment Go to comments
By Ira Sharkansky
JERUSALEM — It has not been a good couple of days for Barack Obama. Instead of celebrating the anniversary of his inauguration, he is pondering his party’s loss of a special election in what may be the most liberal state in the nation, and Iran’s rejection of a lead item on his campaign of engagement.

The Massachusetts defeat was decisive, and not due to the capacity of a faux Kennedy to draw votes from the Democrat.

The New York Times is anything but unfriendly to the Obama White House. Its conclusions about the loss in Massachusetts are that it will require great effort to rescue a health reform, and it will not be the reform promoted by the White House. Moreover, the defeat signals the public’s disappointment with the president who came to office with cheers echoing around the world. http://www.nytimes.com/2010/01/21/health/policy/21congress.html?hp ; http://www.nytimes.com/2010/01/20/us/politics/20assess.html?hp

Iran’s government insulted Obama and his allies by slipping more than two weeks past a year-end deadline for response to an proposal that went far toward giving Iran much of what it wanted, and then rejecting key features of the proposal. http://www.reuters.com/article/idUSTRE60I59820100120

Great power response is to speak yet again about tougher sanctions, but again the powers are not all on the same page.

A Washington Post commentator found reason for optimism on Obama’s first anniversary.

A respectable Israeli, speaking on the prime morning news show, concluded that the president has been a dismal failure. He began with the Middle East, spoke about major concessions to Russia without anything in return, toured through other unpromising international efforts, and was pessimistic about the prospects of health. This commentator may have been too demanding when he said that America’s economic recovery was not fast enough, but overall he was not far from what Americans and others have been saying.

Meanwhile in Israel, journalists are continuing with juicy stories about Sara Netanyahu, and she is irresistible for satirists. Another former employee has reinforced details mentioned in the housekeeper’s suit about unreasonable demands and temper tantrums. We are hearing details known for years, but usually kept under wraps, that Sara’s power extend to who can work as her husband’s advisers or be selected for key appointments in government departments. 

Remember Gary Hart, the Colorado senator with presidential aspirations. His sexual appetites were said to be common knowledge, but not the stuff of news reports until he was too brazen about a boat ride with Donna Rice.

It is too early to know if an embarrassing wife can be as damaging to a political career as an embarrassing girl friend.

The prime minister’s coalition in the Knesset is more solid than the president’s support in Congress. There is not an item on Israel’s domestic agenda comparable in importance to health reform in the United States. We have not heard what Sara thinks about Iran’s nuclear program, so that issue may still be more firmly on Barack’s plate than Bibi’s.

Sharkansky is professor emeritus of political science at Hebrew University

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