Stephen M. Walt

Rashomon at the White House: Why no one agrees on the Bibi-Barack Meeting

In general, I think the Obama/Netanyahu meetings went pretty much as I expected. I’ve also been struck by the Rashomon-like quality of the commentary on the event, which reminds me of the way that politicians react after campaign debates (their candidate always won). People who want the United States to be more evenhanded saw signs ...

585735_090519_waltb2.jpg

In general, I think the Obama/Netanyahu meetings went pretty much as I expected. I’ve also been struck by the Rashomon-like quality of the commentary on the event, which reminds me of the way that politicians react after campaign debates (their candidate always won). People who want the United States to be more evenhanded saw signs of discord and emphasize the clear differences between the two men on the Palestinian issue; those who favor the status quo on Israel-Palestine highlight the partial agreement on Iran (both men regard its nuclear program as a bad thing, albeit with different degrees of alarm). 

The fact that different people can so easily read different meanings into this event is not surprising; both men had little incentive for an overt clash despite their obvious differences. That that’s what diplomatic ambiguity is all about. As I suggested yesterday, we won’t really know where U.S.-Israeli relations are headed unless and until Obama spells out own vision of a peace settlement in some detail, and until we learn whether Obama is willing to use U.S. leverage to bring it about. Stay tuned.

Amos Moshe Milner/GPO via Getty Images

Stephen M. Walt is the Robert and Renée Belfer professor of international relations at Harvard University. @stephenwalt
A decade of Global Thinkers

A decade of Global Thinkers

The past year's 100 most influential thinkers and doers Read Now

Trending Now Sponsored Links by Taboola

By Taboola

More from Foreign Policy

By Taboola