If it had been a fight, they would have stopped it.
Friday’s showdown between President Barack Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu wasn’t close, and it wasn’t pretty — though Netanyahu didn’t want to leave any obvious marks. The end result was that our president is suddenly aware that Chicago rules don’t work on tough-minded leaders of countries surrounded by terrorists.
The battle between the warrior and the academic was bound to turn out this way. Obama had been a community organizer. Netanyahu had fought in the Israeli Defense Forces’ elite special forces unit, the Sayeret Matkal. Faculty meetings can get rough, but not as rough as the hostage rescue mission to free Sabena Flight 571.
So the president and his absurd declaration about 1967 borders are off the table. In fact, the table is gone. Israel can wait out however much is left of Obama’s presidency. Israel isn’t going back to the Auschwitz borders it enlarged while under invasion by neighbors.
Netanyahu’s takedown of the president should be on the TiVo of every Republican candidate. One of those men will be standing opposite the president in the debates of September and October 2012, and Netanyahu showed exactly how to respond to the president’s prolixities and pauses.
First, let the president talk, and talk, and talk. His frequent rhetorical cul-de-sacs numb the minds of listeners and set up the opportunity for sharp contrasts between the definitive and the ambiguous, the purposeful and the feckless.
Second, look right at him when responding. This so unnerved Obama that his anger and frustration were visible. The president does not care for people who challenge him directly and cannot seem to believe that anyone would have the temerity to do so.
Next, speak from specifics, using facts and especially history. A GOP nominee armed with specific references — especially with clear evidence of American exceptionalism — will put Obama on his heels.
Finally, express core truths bluntly — especially the harshest ones, such as that Hamas, like Hezbollah to the north, wants Israel destroyed.
Netanyahu showed a worldwide audience that purposefulness can be as polite as it is pointed, and that Obama has a glass jaw. A clenched glass jaw, but a glass jaw nonetheless.
Israel isn’t going back to the 1967 borders. Hamas cannot be a partner in peace negotiations. And Israel is a friend and a valued ally, not a lap dog. The president would do well to figure out that our country prefers Netanyahu’s approach to his. Even the president’s own party does.
Examiner columnist Hugh Hewitt is a law professor at Chapman University Law School and a nationally syndicated radio talk show host who blogs daily at HughHewitt.com.