Americans sensed there was still a bit of tension between President Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu when the latter leader cancelled their planned meeting this month. The Obama administration claimed to be blindsided by the announcement, but Israel’s government insists they warned the White House last week. Sources reveal that the prime minister decided to forgo the meeting because he was frustrated over a delay in defense aid. Yet, others say he simply didn’t want to visit during the peak of the U.S. presidential campaign.
The bad blood between Obama and Netanyahu dates back a few years ago following a testy meeting at the White House. The leaders simply did not get along. Now, in a new interview with The Atlantic’s Jeffrey Goldberg, Obama is pinning the blame on Netanyahu. During their meeting, Obama claims the Israeli leader lectured him on the dangers Israel faces. Obama responded in annoyance, noting that he didn’t become president without having some knowledge of Middle East affairs. Here’s how their meeting went down, according to the president.
“Bibi, you have to understand something,” he said. “I’m the African American son of a single mother, and I live here, in this house. I live in the White House. I managed to get elected president of the United States. You think I don’t understand what you’re talking about, but I do,” Obama recounted in the interview.
The president may have accused Netanyahu of lecturing him, but based on the above account, it seems Obama is also guilty of talking down to his guest.
Vice President Joe Biden appears to have a better relationship with the Israeli prime minister. He was in Israel this week to discuss military aid, but the discussion shifted to the rampant Palestinian terrorism in the country after an American tourist was stabbed to death and over a dozen others wounded in Tel Aviv. Biden denounced the attacks.
“Let me say in no uncertain terms: The United States of America condemns these acts and condemns the failure to condemn these acts,” Mr. Biden said, adding, “This cannot be viewed by civilized leaders as an appropriate way in which to behave.”
Israel needs more of Biden’s rhetoric and less of Obama’s dismissiveness. Our president needs to overcome his tendency to be easily offended and focus on what’s right for our friend in the Middle East. Once he comes to this realization, we need to back up our talk with action and do what we can to help Israel to confront their dangerous neighbors.