WASHINGTON – Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s comments on Iran have triggered a backlash among some in Washington and the American media this week, as he was slammed for undermining Israel’s closest ally and trying to influence American politics.
In an unusual public display of criticism from an influential member of the US Senate, California Democrat Barbara Boxer wrote a letter to Netanyahu Wednesday to express “my deep disappointment over your remarks that call into question our country’s support for Israel.” She went on to describe them as “utterly contrary to the extraordinary United States- Israel alliance.”
On Tuesday, Netanyahu – in response to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s statement that the US wasn’t setting deadlines for Iran – said, “"Those in the international community who refuse to put red lines before Iran don't have a moral right to place a red light before Israel."
Boxer’s letter, made public, calls on Netanyahu to “step back and clarify your remarks so that the world sees that there is no daylight between the United States and Israel.”
The Prime Minister’s Office declined to comment on the letter.
Boxer, a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and a regular at pro-Israel events, described herself in the letter as “one of Israel’s staunchest supporters in Congress.”
One Washington-based official with a Jewish group said it was “extremely unusual” for a senator so close to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee “to so vehemently and so publicly criticize Netanyahu.”
Several senior figures in the US media this week also took on Netanyahu more directly for interfering in the US election.
Joe Klein of Time called Netanyahu’s recent behavior “outrageous,” as well as “an unprecedented attempt by a putative American ally to influence a US presidential campaign.”
Similarly, David Remnick, editor of The New Yorker, wrote that “Netanyahu seems determined, more than ever, to alienate the president of the United States and, as an ally of Mitt Romney’s campaign, to make himself a factor in the 2012 election.”
Though Remnick and Klein were addressing Netanyahu’s actions on Iran, the charge that Netanyahu was interfering in the presidential race intensified when Israeli officials on Tuesday afternoon leaked that a request to meet with Obama during the prime minister’s visit to the US at the end of the month had been turned down.
The White House later denied that a request for a meeting had been made, or that such a request had been rejected.
Whether or not it was Netanyahu’s intention to enter the American political fray, the dispute quickly took on political dimensions, with Obama’s presidential challenger weighing in.
“I stand with our friends in Israel. I stand with our allies,” Romney said Wednesday in Florida, according to ABC News. “I can’t ever imagine, if the prime minister of Israel asked to meet with me, I can’t ever imagine saying no.
“They’re our friends, they’re our closest allies in the Middle East.”