In the run-up to the Israel elections, two pieces of conventional wisdom were making the rounds among analysts, diplomats and experts: First, Benjamin Netanyahu would win big, and second, the victory would propel him on a collision course with Barack Obama, a second term president seeking to do something serious on the peace issue.
The first proved to be dead wrong. The second will probably follow suit.
"Bibi" Netanyahu has just been re-elected prime minister, no less for the third time. But don't get out the popcorn and turn out the lights just yet. The sequel to the Obama-Bibi wars isn't about to begin.
Sure, their relationship has been perhaps the most dysfunctional in the history of U.S.-Israeli ties. And there are bound to be plenty of downs in the next several years, particularly if Netanyahu is forced to form a narrow right-wing governing coalition.
But the U.S.-Israeli relationship is simply too big and important to fail, particularly now.
Indeed, given the real prospects that the new Israeli coalition will include Yair Lapid's centrist party (whose surprise showing of 19 seats may make him a coalition lynchpin) and maybe another moderate faction if Lapid won't sit with other right-wingers in the coalition, the two leaders may have less reason to fight and more reasons to cooperate. Here's why.
Second term illusion
The notion that a second-term president freed from the constraints of re-election will now hammer an Israeli prime minister with a big peace initiative just doesn't add up.
First, there's no precedent for such a thing in American policy toward the Arab-Israeli negotiations. Bill Clinton's push at Camp David in July 2000 -- the precedent most often cited -- came not from Clinton, but at then-Prime Minister Ehud Barak's urging.
Second, it's the presence of opportunity, not the absence of political constraints or the desire to get even and settle scores, that leads a U.S. president to act.