The 48 hours of U.S. President Barack Obama visit here last week were crammed with gala events in which numerous Israelis from all walks of life participated. The standouts were the well-attended dinner at the official residence of President Shimon Peres, the intimate supper at Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s home and the presidential speech at the International Convention Center, Binyanei Ha’uma.
- Israel's Defense Ministry officially passes from Ehud Barak to Moshe Ya'alon
- Ehud Barak will meet with U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel in Washington Tuesday
But no one bothered to invite Ehud Barak to any of these. As the defense minister, until just 24 hours before Obama landed at Ben-Gurion Airport, Barak was responsible for the two countries’ strategic relations and served as Netanyahu’s envoy to Washington.
Figures in Barak’s circle Wednesday seemed astounded that organizers in both capitals forgot to put Barak on the guest lists.
Around 60 VIPs, for example, were invited to the Peres dinner, including coalition leaders and cabinet ministers; security agency heads; Miss Israel; the actress Gila Almagor; businesswoman Ofra Strauss; Western Wall rabbi Shmuel Rabinovitch; Amos Gilad, head of policy and political affairs in the Defense Ministry; Efi Stenzler, KKL-JNF world chairman; entrepreneur Yossi Vardi and local television news editors.
Likewise, there were personal friends of Peres, among them lawyer Abie Neeman and Haim Cohen, who represents Moroccan Jewish immigrants.
On Saturday morning Netanyahu called Barak to apologize for the oversight. The Prime Minister’s Office commented Wednesday that although Barak was not serving in an official capacity at the time of Obama’s visit he no doubt deserved to be invited to events honoring the American president.
According to one PMO official, the prime minister called Barak to apologize because he was very uncomfortable with the failure to include Barak in any of the events.
The PMO said organizers realized their mistake while Obama was in Israel. By way of rectifying it they called Barak on Friday to invite him, at very short notice, to the departure ceremony held for Obama at Ben-Gurion that afternoon but Barak declined.
A source close to Peres said Barak was not invited to the gala dinner at the President’s Residence because he was no longer a cabinet minister on the evening of the event.
Members of Peres’ staff noted that only 60 Israelis were invited and that competition for the invitations was fierce.