United States President Barack Obama has been sharply critical of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in private conversations this week. He reportedly said that Netanyahu “doesn’t understand what Israel’s best interests are,” and that his conduct will drive Israel into grave international isolation.
- Bradley Burston / Secession From Israel
- Editorial / Don't Interfere With Hagel Nod
- Aaron Miller on the Hagel Controversy
- Livni: Obama Gave Israel a Wake-up Call
- Netanyahu Responds to Obama Criticism: Will Continue Standing Firm for Israel
- Bibi: Israel Makes Its Own Decisions
- Olmert Blasts Netanyahu on Obama
- Time for Obama to Clarify U.S. Policy on Iran
- Can Israel Live With a Nuclear Iran?
- In Response to Israeli Elections, U.S. Renews Call for Peace Negotiations
- Jon Stewart Does the Israeli Election
- Obama Names New Chief of Staff
- 'Netanyahu, Obama Have Bad Chemistry'
- Obama Commends PM on Reelection
Obama’s remarks were published by journalist Jeffrey Goldberg on the Bloomberg news website. Goldberg is considered to be close to the Obama administration and on several occasions during the past four years the White House has channeled public messages through him to Israel and the prime minister – regarding both the Palestinian and Iranian issues.
The messages in Goldberg’s column, which apparently came from a briefing by top officials at the White House, are very similar to those that appeared in a column by political pundit Peter Beinert a few weeks ago, in which he described the White House’s lack of trust in and frustration with Netanyahu.
In his Bloomberg column, Goldberg describes the moment when President Obama was apprised of Netanyahu’s decision to advance the planning processes in the controversial E-1 area between Ma’aleh Adumim and Jerusalem. Obama, writes Goldberg, “didn’t even bother getting angry. He told several people that this sort of behavior on Netanyahu’s part is what he has come to expect, and he suggested that he has become inured to what he sees as self-defeating policies of his Israeli counterpart.”
According to Goldberg, in the weeks after the Palestinian move at the United Nations, Obama has said in private conversations that “Israel does not know what its own best interests are.” Moreover, in Obama’s opinion with every announcement of new construction in the settlements, Netanyahu is leading his country towards near-total international isolation.
Goldberg writes that Obama believes that “if Israel, a small state in an inhospitable region, becomes more of a pariah – one that alienates even the affections of the U.S., its last steadfast friend – it won’t survive. Iran poses a short-term threat to Israel’s survival; Israel’s own behavior poses a long-term one.”
On the Palestinian issue, Goldberg notes, Obama believes Netanyahu is “a political coward, an essentially unchallenged leader who nevertheless is unwilling to lead or spend political capital to advance the cause of compromise.”
Though Obama’s nominee for secretary of state, John Kerry, wants to restart the peace process, Obama is less enthusiastic. According to Goldberg, Obama believes Netanyahu is so thoroughly a captive of the settler lobby and so uninterested in carrying out conciliatory gestures towards the Palestinians that any diplomatic move on the part of the U.S. president at this time would be unwise.
According to Goldberg, despite his frustration with Netanyahu, Obama does not intend to cut off military aid to Israel or to stop trying to frustrate Iran’s nuclear ambitions. However, with respect to diplomatic aid from the United States – at the UN or in the face of European initiatives – Israel is liable to feel a significant change in the near future. At the next vote in the UN, writes Goldberg, Israel could well find itself even more isolated.