Intriguingly, Obama’s policy of restraint found a supportive echo in the Israeli securocracy: it was the loud, sometimes public opposition of current and former military and intelligence chiefs that made it all but impossible for Netanyahu to contemplate air strikes against Iran. It turns out that it was the fruit of a deliberate, planned effort by Washington, patiently creating what one analysis calls a “United States lobby” within the Israeli security elite. Now established, there is no reason why that same US lobby could not be mobilised to pressure Bibi again – this time on the Israel-Palestine track.
With Obama freed of the demands of re-election, and Kerry apparently cured of presidential ambition, the pair could do what no US administration has attempted in a decade and a half: exert some meaningful pressure on Israel to make peace. That could come in the form of the US issuing its own “bridging proposal”, a vision of the ultimate resolution of this conflict that seeks to reconcile the demands of the two sides.
Netanyahu won’t like it, but one Israeli observer who knows his record well believes that is the only way Bibi will ever shift: “He never does anything unless he can show he was forced into it by someone or something bigger.” If Obama issues the blueprint for an accord with the Palestinians for him, Bibi might just find a way to accept it. If he does, he will find ready support from Israel’s opposition Labour party, which this week elected a new leader, one eager to join a Bibi-led coalition if the latter is serious about reaching an accord.