Former U.S. Envoy Confirms 'Bad Chemistry' Between Obama and Netanyahu

Martin Indyk says Obama is 'deeply committed' to Israel, but made a 'mistake' not visiting in first term; also says Obama is 'frustrated' by his dealings, an finds Israel 'not responsive'.

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President Barack Obama is "deeply committed" to Israel's security but made a "mistake" by not visiting the country in his first term, former U.S. Ambassador Martin Indyk said Monday.

"Of course it was a mistake. And it's a mistake that he hasn’t come to Jerusalem since then," Indyk told Army Radio in an interview. "I think it's very important that the Israeli public come to feel him. He is a man who is deeply committed to Israel's security. The problem is that the Israeli public cannot feel him."

Obama visited Israel only once during his 2008 election campaign, and did not stop over in the country during his inaugural Middle East peace tour where he delivered an address to the Muslim world in Cairo.

"The U.S. president is frustrated by his dealings with the region," Indyk said during the interview on Monday. Obama "rightly feels that he has done the right thing by Israel, but that Israel is not responsive," Indyk added.

When asked about the terse relationship between Obama and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Indyk said: "The relationship between the U.S. and Israel is more important than the relationship between the two leaders."

Both Netanyahu and Obama need to get over their "bad chemistry", he said. "I'm sure that President Obama will be ready, and would expect that Prime Minister Netanyahu will do his best as well."

The time is ripe for the newly re-elected Netanyahu to try to turn a new page in relations, Indyk told Army Radio. The main issue dividing the two countries right now is "the need to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict", he added.

Israel must realize that there is a partner for peace on the Palestinian side, Indyk said. "There is a partner, just up the road in Ramallah," said Indyk. "His name is Abu-Mazen [Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas], and he is committed to peace with Israel and to the two-state solution, and to preventing violence and terrorism."

"It's important for Israel, which holds almost all the cards in this situation, to find a way to deal with him, and to make peace with him, and it's not enough to put your head in the sand and to say that there is no partner and therefore we don’t have to worry about it anymore," Indyk added.

"If the message of [the Israeli elections], is that Israelis want normal lives, they cannot have a normal life until they resolve the Palestinian problem," the former ambassador concluded.

Indyk's interview with Army Radio comes some two weeks after journalist Jeffrey Goldberg wrote on the Bloomberg news website that Obama has been sharply critical Netanyahu in recent private conversations. Obama reportedly said that Netanyahu “doesn’t understand what Israel’s best interests are,” according to Goldberg and that his conduct would drive Israel into grave international isolation.

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 before, in which he described the White House’s lack of trust in and frustration with Netanyahu.

Martin Indyk on the CBS program 'Face the Nation.'Credit: Screen shot



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