Benjamin Netanyahu, one presumes, has a keen sense of history. Therefore, Israel’s Prime Minister might reflect on what happened when an earlier best friend of the United States overstepped the diplomatic bounds.

Back in 1793, at the height of the French revolution, Edmond Genêt arrived as the new French ambassador to the US, with instructions to get the country that France had helped to independence barely a decade earlier to take its side in the gathering conflict with Britain.

The self-styled “Citoyen Genêt”, however, went about his task too enthusiastically, scorning President George Washington’s declaration of American neutrality, and going over the head of the government to foment popular support for his cause. The result was a massive diplomatic crisis, in which even Washington’s foes, basically sympathetic to Genêt’s cause, rallied to the president’s support, and the ambassador came within an ace of being expelled.

History, as Mark Twain noted, doesn’t repeat itself, but it rhymes. So skip forward 222 years. This time it’s not Israel’s ambassador but the country’s very leader who’s coming to Washington in March to inject himself directly into US politics and press for tougher US action to ward off a nuclear Iran. The result: another diplomatic crisis, this time between America and its one true friend in the Middle East.

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