Well, that was a short honeymoon.
The honeymoon in question, of course,
being the one between Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and US President Barack
Obama that lasted for the duration of Operation Pillar of Defense.
in a move that surprised many who thought he would “take revenge” on Netanyahu
for the widely held perception that the prime minister favored Republican
candidate Mitt Romney in the US elections, backed Israel during the military
operation, saying loudly that Israel had the natural right to defend itself from
Obama’s rhetorical support was critical, setting the tone
for others in the international community. Israeli officials said the support
Obama gave Netanyahu over the phone was even stronger then what was heard in
public. Despite reports to the contrary, the officials said Obama did not warn
Netanyahu against launching a ground incursion into Gaza.
Barely a week
passed and talk of a honeymoon has, at least in the media, turned into talk of a
divorce. First came the announcement in Jerusalem Friday of construction in the
and planning in the E1 neighborhood, in response to the
Palestinian’s upgrade at the UN, and then came leaked comments
by Chicago Mayor
and former Obama chief of staff Rahm Emanuel.
“Netanyahu bet and lost,”
read Yediot Aharonot
’s lead headline on Monday, quoting what Emanuel reportedly
said in a closed session at the Saban Forum Saturday night in
According to the report, Emanuel – citing the May 2011
meeting between the two leaders in which Netanyahu rejected Obama’s call that
the pre-1967 lines be the baseline of Israeli-Palestinian talks – said the US
president is no longer willing to be treated with disrespect by the prime
“It is unbelievable what happened there,” Emanuel was quoted as
saying about that meeting, which could be dubbed “The Lecture,” due to the US
media’s portrayal of Netanyahu having “lectured the president.”
unforgettable. That is no way to behave.”
Emanuel said Obama would no
longer tolerate this type of behavior, and called Israel “ungrateful” given the
scope of aid it gets from the US.
He also criticized Netanyahu for his
settlement construction response to the Palestinian move at the UN.
Emanuel is no neutral observer and does not come to the Netanyahu brief with
hands pure as snow. There are officials – both in Israel and in the US – who
place the sorry state of Obama- Netanyahu relations during the first two years
of the two men’s tenures in no small degree at Emanuel’s
According to this narrative, Emanuel came to his post in the
Obama administration with a bellyful of Netanyahu – left over from his days as
senior adviser to former US president Bill Clinton, with many in the Clinton
administration blaming Netanyahu for the failure of the Oslo process – and was
determined from day one as chief of staff to show Netanyahu who was
After all, Emanuel – the son of an Israeli who himself did a brief
volunteer stint on an IDF base during the 1991 Gulf War – knew what was good for
Israel. According to this telling of events, he was a key voice behind Obama’s
decision to ambush Netanyahu at their very first White House meeting with a
demand for a total settlement freeze, a move that effectively ended any chance
of negotiations with the Palestinians and poisoned the atmosphere between the
It is no coincidence, perhaps, that the tone of the relationship
between Obama and Netanyahu began to change dramatically for the better in the
late summer, early fall of 2010, as Emanuel was leaving his job as chief of
staff. (He departed the White House on October 1, 2010.) What is ironic about
Emanuel now slamming Netanyahu for interfering in the US elections is that he
seems to be doing the very same thing in the Israeli elections.
no doubt that the perception among many is that an isolated Israeli government,
which does not seem able to have close ties with the current US administration,
is an Israeli government the Israeli public will not want to return to
No coincidence, therefore, that Emanuel made his comments, that
they were leaked out, and that they then found their way to the front page of
Yediot Aharonot, a paper as anti-Netanyahu as Israel HaYom is
The Chicago mayor, obviously, does not want to see another
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