If you plug the names “Obama” or “Netanyahu” or even the words “Jewish” or “Israel” in Google News today, you’ll get a hundred versions of the same Associated Press story: “Obama, Netanyahu: Bad blood between key allies.” It’s a pre-inauguration, pre-election special, intended to forge a consensus in the U.S. public opinion about President Obama’s next four years: he’s going to have trouble from the Republican Congress and he’s going to clash with the Israeli prime minister to be:
“President Barack Obama heads into his second term weighed down by an American government snarled in partisan gridlock, but also by an unproductive relationship with the leader of Israel, the bedrock U.S. ally in the tumultuous Middle East.”
“It’s the greatest dysfunction between leaders that I’ve seen in my 40 years in watching and participating,” Aaron David Miller, who served under six secretaries of state in both Republican and Democratic administrations, and was “deeply involved in negotiations involving Israel, Jordan, Syria and the Palestinians,” told the AP.
“I don’t think we are headed for a showdown,” Miller added, “but the relationship will continue to be dysfunctional.”
Just the other day, writing for the LA Times, Miller said the Jewish attacks on Sen. Chuck Hagel, Obama’s man for Defense, lacked credibility. He wrote:
“Jews worry for a living. Their dark history and, in the case of American Jews, their legitimate concerns about the security of the State of Israel impel them to do so. But sometimes those concerns are overblown and reflect a kind of collective cosmic oy vey that gets in the way of sound and rational judgment.”
Then he says that, despite serious disagreements between the White House and Israel on the Palestinians and on Iran, “chances are if the Obama administration wants to manage the Iranian nuclear issue and the peace process too, it’s going to find a way to work with — not run over — the next Israeli government.”
He’s right, of course, and what he describes is anything but the dysfunctional relationship he talked about to the AP. In his own op-ed, Miller describes two heads of state who strongly disagree on two key points, but he, Miller, has no doubt they would find a modus vivendi.
So where’s the “bad blood”?
Netanyahu likely will win re-election on Jan. 22, two days after Obama is sworn in for a second term, goes the AP story.
Then: “Netanyahu is a hardliner on making peace with the Palestinians, a goal that Obama said was foremost on his foreign policy agenda at the beginning of his first term.”
With which Palestinians? President Abbas who has been refusing to attend negotiations with Israel even during the period of settlement freeze, early in the Netanyahu term? Or the Hamas, which has been actively murdering Israelis, and swearing to some day take back the entire country?
How, out of everyone involved, did Netanyahu end up with the “hardliner” branding?
Then there’s that annoying thing Netanyahu has been doing, “pressing Washington to adopt policy specifics that would trigger a military strike if Iran does not pull back on its nuclear program – widely believed to be aimed at building an atomic bomb.”
And Sen. Chuck Hagel. Although Netanyahu’s office refused comment on Hagel when contacted by The Associated Press in Jerusalem. But Reuven Rivlin, parliament speaker and member of Netanyahu’s Likud party, told AP that Israelis are worried because of Hagel’s “statements in the past, and his stance toward Israel.”
And that constitutes “bad blood”?
When in doubt, Ori Nir, a spokesman for Americans for Peace Now, was at the ready to refute the “talk of anti-Semitism,” which in Hagel’s case, he said, “is unjust and over-the-top.”
Possibly. And a long lineup of mainstream Jewish leaders have said just that throughout last week. Didn’t need to bring Peace Now in as an authority on these things…
The bad blood between Obama and Netanyahu began early, continues the AP story:
“In their first public appearance together at the White House in 2009, Netanyahu pointedly rebuffed Obama’s call for Israel to stop building Jewish housing on land the Palestinians want in a future state.” Obama dropped the issue after it became obvious that it was a waste of political capital at home and that Netanyahu would not budge.
Here’s a link to the Obama/Netanyahu press conference of May 18, 2009. Do find the part where Netanyahu pointedly rebuffs the president. It’s a very long and, generally friendly discourse, so take your time. Somewhere in the middle, Netanyahu says:
PRIME MINISTER NETANYAHU: We’ve had extraordinarily friendly and constructive talks here today, and I’m very grateful to the President for that. We want to move peace forward, and we want to ward off the great threats.
But the AP is still searching for bad blood, and so they extended the paragraph above with: “Netanyahu’s government has continued to announce plans for new settlements in the Palestinian West Bank.”
Now, that’s some editing job. Because the first part of the paragraph refers to a press conference back in 2009, while the last line was Netanyahu’s reaction to the PLO’s unilateral move at the UN, breaking the fundamental principles of the Oslo agreements.
That’s not bad blood, that’s a hatchet job, and done with a rusty hatchet, too.
The AP then brings up the Mitt Romney summer visit during the campaign, which could have been interpreted as Netanyahu’s support for the Republican candidate. Of course, when the Democratic candidate back in 2008 visited Israel, he was also admitted through customs. And you can even argue that Netanyahu would have been happier with Romney in the White House – which didn’t stop a strong majority of Jewish voters from backing Obama.
But “bad blood”?
“The more Netanyahu believes Obama is serious about preventing Iran from getting a bomb, the better they will manage their relations,” David Makovsky of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy told the AP. “If not, the issue of an Israeli first strike on Iran becomes more likely.”
And Miller said Obama will be “too consumed with battling Congress on the budget, gun control legislation and other issues to spend much time on disagreements with Netanyahu.”
“Is he going to go after Israel-Palestinian peace talks or war with Iran given all his domestic challenges?” Miller asked. “He will go to extreme lengths to avoid war with Iran.”
But Nir, of Peace Now, says time is running out for a peace deal with the Palestinians and Israel could face another armed uprising like the one that bloodied the region in 2000.”
Now I get it – Netanyahu has bad blood with Peace Now!
About the Author: Yori Yanover has been a working journalist since age 17, before he enlisted and worked for Ba'Machane Nachal. Since then he has worked for Israel Shelanu, the US supplement of Yedioth, JCN18.com, USAJewish.com, Lubavitch News Service, Arutz 7 (as DJ on the high seas), and the Grand Street News. He has published Dancing and Crying, a colorful and intimate portrait of the last two years in the life of the late Lubavitch Rebbe, (in Hebrew), and two fun books in English: The Cabalist's Daughter: A Novel of Practical Messianic Redemption, and How Would God REALLY Vote.
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