Obama’s health care victory may prove a decisive pivot point in the way he is viewed both domestically and abroad and in how powerful a negotiator he is perceived to be by foreign leaders. And nowhere is that true more than in Israel, a place obsessed with American politics.
“Every time I met with an Arab diplomat or anyone from the Middle East, including Israelis, they would invariably ask me, ‘How’s health care going?’” said former Rep. Robert Wexler (D-Fla.), who retired in December to become president of the S. Daniel Abraham Center for Middle East Peace. “And the first couple [of] times, I didn’t really realize what they were actually asking. They were asking, ‘How strong is the president of the United States?’”
Netanyahu’s aides have recently confided that they see Obama as a weak leader whose tenure they can weather, but that calculus may now have to change. After his health care victory, says Wexler, “the president is now a much stronger president, and that will play out in a variety of ways in the Middle East, and also in his direct relations with the leaders in the region, especially Prime Minister Netanyahu.”