The tendency to look at Israel analytically instead of emotionally, and to view the conflict through a national-interest prism rather than some sort of moral filter, dovetails with Obama’s poisonous relationship with Netanyahu. Obama doesn’t like him, doesn’t trust him and views him as a con man. The Israeli prime minister has frustrated and embarrassed Obama and gotten in the way of the president’s wildly exaggerated hopes for a solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, which he’s been pursuing with more enthusiasm than viable strategy since his inauguration. To make matters worse, when the president went after a settlements freeze, Netanyahu called his bluff and Obama backed down — a terrible humiliation…

What’s so intriguing about the near future is that neither a viable joint project nor a change in leaders may take place. The Iran nuclear issue is a wild card in all of this. The impact of an Israeli strike on Iran’s nuclear sites can’t be gamed out, but a pretty good case can be made that the consequences would bind the U.S. and Israel closer together, particularly in the event of a tough Iranian response.

In the end, the Barack-Bibi relationship is likely headed south because the trust and capacity to give each other the benefit of the doubt has long ago evaporated. If both are still in office in 2013 when the political dust settles, the game of gotcha will continue. Newly empowered but still wary and suspicious, neither will be in the mood to kiss and make up.