Commentary: How Israel PM Netanyahu is like Soupy Sales

In recent days, I've changed my view of Israel's prime minister.

For years I've compared Benjamin "Bibi" Netanyahu to the late Alabama Gov. George Wallace — a man who, like many American politicians, didn't really believe everything he said, but would say anything to get elected.

After entering politics, Bibi's appeal to his right-wing supporters was his masterful articulation of anti-Palestinian, pro- apartheid (former President Jimmy Carter's word) rhetoric that appeased and incited his electoral base.

Wallace did the same thing in the 1960s, and many segregationists learned well from him.

About the only difference between Wallace in his heyday and Netanyahu today is, instead of blocking entry to a public university, Bibi is blocking any semblance of meaningful negotiations that would result in a lasting peace.

He prefers to be defiant against the Palestinians and the world rather than be viewed as an accommodationist by his more radical followers.

More recently however, especially on the occasion of Vice President Joe Biden's visit to reassure Israelis of America's allegiance and to help restart peace negotiations, Bibi resembles another historical icon: Soupy Sales.

Sales, who died last year at 83, is most remembered for his thousands of pie-throwing incidents, including targeting celebrities like Frank Sinatra, Burt Lancaster and Sammy Davis Jr.

With Israel's announcement of plans to build 1,600 homes -- a new settlement, if you will -- in East Jerusalem, Bibi not only threw a pie in the face of the vice president, but in America's face as well.

The major difference between Bibi and Soupy is that Soupy probably was the recipient of more pies than he threw. And, of course, no one was laughing after Bibi's pie-throwing episode.

Biden's visit was supposed to be a new beginning or another "glimmer of hope" in the elusive peace process. While not agreeing to direct negotiations, Palestinian and Israeli leaders accepted indirect talks with special U.S. envoy George Mitchell set to shuttle between the two sides in working on a way forward.

But just as on many occasions in the past, those on both sides whose power is rooted in constant conflict rather than the prospect of peace can find a way to derail any attempt at reconciliation.

Sometimes it's the militant Palestinian group Hamas that launches another missile toward Israel; other times it is the Israeli government deciding on more crackdowns or the announcement of more settlements in the occupied territories.

To the surprise of many, including the Israelis, Biden and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton quickly denounced the new settlements as an "insulting" gesture that was an affront to the United States and the peace process itself.

Netanyahu, who later claimed to be unaware of the settlement plan before it was released by his country's Interior Ministry, apologized for the announcement's "timing," but did not voice regret for the obviously destructive action.

The prime minister, while calling for an investigation of the process leading up to the ill-timed proclamation, has refused to yield to White House demands that settlement activity halt.

The condemnation by Biden and Clinton, coming at what should have been an exuberant moment for U.S./Israeli relations, has had a chilling effect perhaps unlike any in the past 30 years.

This time the Israeli government has no one to blame but itself.

There are published reports that our military experts on the ground in the Middle East are growing more concerned about the ongoing Israeli/Palestinian conflict because it has a direct bearing on the safety of U.S. troops in the region.

Over and over, the U.S. government has been far more accommodating to the concerns of Israel than it has to the plight of the Palestinians, and that bias is undermining our efforts as we fight wars in two countries and continue to wage battle against an ever-changing, ever-evasive terrorist enemy.

It is long overdue that this country stood up to the arrogance and obstinacy of Israel and its leaders, who are more concerned about their own power than doing what is best for all the people of the Middle East.

Biden was correct when, according to The Christian Science Monitor¸ he declared this country's friendship to Israel before a crowd at Tel Aviv University, and then added:

"Sometimes only a friend can deliver the hardest truth ... The status quo is untenable."

The United States needs to make it crystal clear to Bibi and his fellow leaders that the continued construction of "settlements" is a nonstarter and cannot be tolerated.

It is time for serious negotiations about a possible two-state solution, and both sides must be willing to compromise for the benefit of all.

Otherwise, we can just start another big pie-throwing contest. Except in that part of the world the pies are usually disguised as bombs.