After Benjamin Netanyahu rejected President Obama's demand for Israeli concessions in the Oval Office last week, a television anchor said the Israeli leader treated the president like a "schoolboy." In that case, class was in session again yesterday, and the second lecture more fully exposed the holes in Obama's education.
Netanyahu's skillful address to Congress touched every Mideast base with conviction and facts. He made a compelling case for his approach to the Palestinians, including Hamas, and was so well-received by both Democrats and Republicans that Obama is left looking foolish and isolated.
The president was fortunate to be in Europe, if only because time and distance spared him immediate embarrassment. His ideas for the "peace process" have been shredded beyond salvaging. Even a top fellow Democrat, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, rebuked Obama in a Monday night address.
While Reid took a more traditional approach in telling the American Israel Public Affairs Committee that "no one should set premature parameters about borders, about building or about anything else" -- a clear shot at Obama -- Netanyahu went far beyond process points.
He made it clear where Israel stands with a series of striking declarations, such as:
"Israel is not what's wrong in the Middle East. Israel is what's right."
"The conflict has never been about the establishment of a Palestinian state. The conflict has been about the existence of a Jewish state."
"The Palestinian refugee problem will be solved outside the borders of Israel."
"We will not negotiate with a Palestinian government backed by the Palestinian version of Al Qaeda."
Throw in his urgent reminder that Iran must be stopped in its march toward nukes, and you have the pillars of a principled and clear policy. It's a speech that Obama himself could have given, if only he shared the policy.
Instead, our president is stuck in a view that only charitably can be called even-handed. His embrace of major tenets of the Palestinian narrative on borders and settlements and his silence on the "right of return" have emboldened Arab hard-liners and eroded Israeli confidence in him.
Worse, his attempts to squeeze and isolate Netanyahu have backfired. In what might be an un precedented moment, a foreign leader visited Washington and trumped an American president on his home court.
Netanyahu wasn't rude. He was right.
Obama's flawed approach, stemming from his belief that America must show more respect for Muslims, is more than a tactical blunder. He has so badly misjudged the issues and the players that there is zero chance of serious negotiations. And without the hope of talks, the chance of war increases and the power of Islamic fundamentalists grows.
It remains a mystery why Obama fails to see this larger strategic picture. Israel is a democratic friend and ally, while Palestinians have no rule of law, honor terrorists with street names, and use mass media and schools to preach anti-Semitism. One Hamas leader grieved Usama bin Laden as an "Arab holy warrior."
While it's true, as Netanyahu conceded, that parts of the Israeli position, such as an undivided Jerusalem, are very hard for Palestinians to accept, that's an endgame hurdle.
The basic threshold facts matter now, and they are crystal-clear: A series of Israeli governments has accepted the idea of an independent Palestinian state, and made serious efforts to negotiate terms.
The Palestinians always say no because the sticking point is the same one it has been since 1948: Neither their leaders nor the general public is ready to end the conflict and accept Israel as a Jewish state. Until they are, there can be no peace.