(JNS.org) The same reports of tension between President Barack Obama and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that persisted leading up to November’s U.S. election have reemerged before Israelis prepare to vote on Jan. 22.
In an article for Bloomberg published Tuesday, journalist Jeffrey Goldberg—who its thought to have good access to the White House—wrote that in the weeks following the United Nations vote to give the Palestinians non-member state status, Obama said privately and repeatedly, “Israel doesn’t know what its own best interests are.”
Goldberg wrote that Obama believes Netanyahu, by building construction beyond Israel’s pre-1967 borders, is “moving his country down a path toward near-total isolation.”
Obama-Netanyahu tension before the U.S. election centered on the Iranian threat, with Obama refusing to set the specific “red line” requested by Netanyahu which, if crossed, would prompt American military action against Iran. Regarding a red line, Obama told rabbis from across the denominational spectrum in a conference call before Rosh Hashanah this year that “no leader wants to tie his hands” by setting such conditions. Additionally, on the CBS “60 Minutes” program, Obama went on to describe Netanyahu’s calls for a red line as “noise.”
Now, amid Obama’s nomination of former Nebraska senator Chuck Hagel—who has come under fire for his record and statements on Israel (perhaps most infamously, his reference to the “Jewish lobby”)—for defense secretary, the “dysfunctional relationship between Netanyahu and Obama is poised to enter a new phase,” according to Goldberg.
“On matters related to the Palestinians, the president seems to view the prime minister as a political coward, an essentially unchallenged leader who nevertheless is unwilling to lead or spend political capital to advance the cause of compromise,” Goldberg wrote.
Reacting to Goldberg’s column, Israeli Education Minister Gideon Sa’ar on Tuesday said Netanyahu, if re-elected, “will know how to work with [U.S. President Barack] Obama very well while at the same time safeguarding Israel’s interests,” Israel Hayom reported.