McCain: Israel-U.S. Ties Have Never Been Worse Than Under Obama

Republican senator says Obama had 'very unrealistic expectations about the degree of cooperation that he would get from Israel.'

AP

Senator John McCain told CNN on Sunday that ties between the U.S. and Israel have never been worse than under the Obama administration.

Speaking on "State of the Union," McCain asserted that Obama “had very unrealistic expectations about the degree of cooperation that he would get from Israel, particularly on the Palestinian issue as well as on the nuclear issue with Iran.”

While the relationship between the U.S. and Israel has not always been excellent, McCain said, "any observer would argue they’ve never been worse.”

“I’m not putting the entire blame on the president of the United States, but I will say this: No other president has had such a difficult relationship with the state of Israel since it became a country,” the Arizona Republican said according to The Washington Times.

He called the deteriorating ties "a tragedy" because Israel is "the only functioning democracy in the entire Middle East.”

McCain's statements were made on the backdrop of a crisis in the U.S.-Israeli relations, sparked by an invitation extended by House Speaker John Boehner to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to address Congress next month on the issue of the nuclear talks with Iran. The invitation was extended – and accepted – without coordination with the White House.

McCain told CNN that he would have discussed such an invitation with the White House in advance, but added that he wasn't surprised by Boehner's actions considering his strained relationship with Obama.

“Obviously we would want everybody to work together, but there’s a real crisis going on, and that is that these negotiations with Iran, which many of us believe are already fatally flawed, that the speaker felt the overriding concern was to have him appear before the American people and tell them about the dangers of a very bad agreement with Iran on nuclear weapons,” McCain said.

'Congress speech may backfire'

Meanwhile, former Secretary of State James Baker said on CBS News' "Face of the Nation" that the Congress speech may "backfire" on Netanyahu in the upcoming election.

Baker said that while Boehner has the right to invite anyone he wants to speak to the House, "it's best done, our foreign policy is best conducted when there's at least cooperation between the legislative and the executive branches."

Baker drew a parallel between the current crisis and Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir's "trouble managing the U.S. relationship" in the early '90s.

Asked whether the tension could hurt Netanyahu's chances in the election, Baker said "it has the potential to backfire, just as it backfired on Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir back there in 1990 or 1991, when he was challenged by Yitzhak Rabin, and Rabin won, but primarily because Shamir was not seen to be able to manage the relationship with the United States properly." 

Senator Dick Durbin said on the show that Boehner's decision to invite Netanyahu without consulting the White House was "a mistake."

"I don't want to show any weakness in terms of our commitment to Israel," the Illinois Democrat said. "But some of my closest friends in the United States who support Israel have described this Boehner strategy as a disaster. I hope we can find a way to stabilize the situation quickly and take the politics out of it." 

According to a recent report, Netanyahu has been lobbying Democratic leaders to tone down their critique of his invitation to speak before Congress, with the U.S. legislators responding that he should reconsider the move, which could do damage to Israel.