Israel envoy: Netanyahu row with Obama causes strategic damage
Channel 10: Senior U.S.-based diplomat criticized premier in letter addressed to Foreign Ministry.
In a rare in-house rebuke that reflects concern over the growing tensions between Washington and Jerusalem, a senior Israeli diplomat stationed in Boston said Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's policy vis-a-vis the Obama administration is causing strategic damage to Israel, Channel 10 reported.
Israel's consul general in Boston, Nadav Tamir, is viewed as a veteran, well-respected diplomat whose opinions are given considerable weight in Israel's foreign policy establishment, according to Channel 10.
Tamir's missive is considered unusual given the blunt, pointed nature of the criticism against the premier's policies.
In the letter, which was written as an internal memo addressed to the Foreign Ministry in Jerusalem, the Israeli diplomat wrote that the public spat with the U.S. over the issue of a settlements freeze has alienated a significant number of American Jewish supporters, Channel 10 reported.
"The manner in which we are conducting relations with the American administration is causing strategic damage to Israel," Tamir wrote. "The distance between us and the U.S. administration has clear consequences for Israeli deterrence."
"There are American and Israeli political elements who oppose Obama on an ideological basis and who are ready to sacrifice the special relationship between the two countries for the sake of their own political agendas," the consul general in Boston wrote.
"There has always been a discrepancy in the approaches of both states [on the issue of settlements], but there was always a level of coordination between the governments," Tamir wrote. "Nowadays, there is a sense in the United States that Obama is forced to deal with the obduracy of the governments in Iran, North Korea, and Israel."
"The administration is making an effort to lower the profile of the disagreements, and yet it is [Israel] that is the source which is highlighting the differences," Tamir wrote.
Tamir accused Netanyahu of endangering American Jewish backing for Israel by publicly sparring with the Obama administration over construction of Jewish housing in the West Bank and East Jerusalem.
A spokesperson for Netanyahu issued a statement to Channel 10 which accused Tamir of violating protocol by expressing "political views" against the premier.
Tamir refused a Haaretz request for comment. The Israeli consulate in Boston said the memorandum is an internal Foreign Ministry document that was not for the media's consumption.
Foreign Ministry spokesman Yigal Palmor told the Associated Press late Thursday, "We don't comment on leaked reports."
In a bid to jumpstart the moribund Middle East peace process, the Obama administration has repeated its demand that Israel cease construction in West Bank settlements. The policy is a sharp departure from the tone and substance of Israel-U.S. relations during the presidency of George W. Bush.
American Middle East envoy George Mitchell has asked Netanyahu and Defense Minister Ehud Barak for a "deposit," an advance commitment of a one-year freeze on construction in West Bank settlements.
Mitchell raised the idea in his talks with Netanyahu and Barak in Israel last week. He argued that the Arab states will not make gestures toward normalization with Israel without a guarantee of an end to building in the settlements. Mitchell said an Israeli agreement to temporarily freeze construction would facilitate concessions from the Arab states.
A senior source in Jerusalem noted that while Netanyahu and Barak did not reject the request, they disagree with the Americans over some of the details.
Mitchell asked for a construction freeze of at least a year, but Israel has agreed to suspend building on the settlements for six months, at most.
The Americans have not yet said clearly what will happen at the end of the freeze period. Israel wants a U.S. commitment to reach new understandings with Jerusalem over future developments that would be similar to those between Bush and former prime minister Ehud Olmert.
Natasha Mozgovaya contributed to this report.