Former U.S. Peace Broker: Netanyahu and Obama Are on Different Planets

Speaking to U.S. media, Aaron David Miller says U.S. President likely sees Netanyahu as a kind of 'politician-slash-conman.'

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and U.S. President are on "different planets" regarding the Middle East peace process, a former U.S. negotiator told ABC news on Sunday, in wake of disagreement between the two leaders following the American president's Mideast policy speech.

The report came after Netanyahu denied on Saturday that he was locked in crisis with the American president over their public dispute regarding the borders of a future Palestinian state.

Netanyahu Obama 21.5.11
Avi Ohayon

"The reports of a disagreement have been blown way out of proportion," Netanyahu was quoted as saying by a spokesman.

At the White House on Friday, Netanyahu bluntly rejected Obama's vision for the borders of a Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, in what appeared to be the opening of a deep divide between the United States and Israel.

In an unusually sharp rebuke to Israel's closest ally, Netanyahu told Obama his endorsement of the Palestinian demand to go back to Israel's 1967 boundaries - meaning significant land concessions - would leave Israel "indefensible."

Speaking with ABC on Sunday, Aaron David Miller, head of the U.S. Advisory Council of Israel Policy Forum and former U.S. Mideast negotiator referred to the ongoing disconnect between Jerusalem and Washington, saying "Obama is on Mars right now, and the prime minister is on another planet."

"They simply have different conceptions of how they see this process and how they see one another's needs. A consequence of that is zero space for one to give the other the diplomatic benefit of the doubt," Millder said.

Stressing further the extent of distrust between the two leaders, the former U.S. official said that Obama "looks at the prime minster probably as a politician-slash-conman," adding that "an Israeli prime minister usually sleeps with one eye open. I guarantee you this guy, when it comes to the United States, now is sleeping with two eyes open."

Also speaking with ABC on Sunday, former U.S. Middle East adviser George Mitchell indicated that he felt the rift was a theatrical display, saying "the fact that a prime minister of Israel made a proposal that is identical in meaning and almost identical in meaning and almost identical in words makes that case".

"The proposal was identical to a proposal made by the Israeli prime minister just prior to Mr. Netanyahu," he said, referring to former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert.