US President Barack Obama (L) and Vice President Joe Biden.
(photo credit: OFFICIAL WHITE HOUSE PHOTO BY PETE SOUZA)
A confidante of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu accused US President Barack Obama on Friday of exhibiting “an iota of hypocrisy” in criticizing the premier for remarks made during the recent election campaign which were perceived as racist.
In an interview with Israel Radio on Friday, Likud MK Tzachi Hanegbi was asked to comment on Obama’s comments to The Atlantic published Thursday.
“It’s astonishing that President Obama didn’t see fit to criticize countries like Iran, which regularly executes people, or Turkey, where journalists who write things critical of their government are sent to jail,” Hanegbi said.
The Likud lawmaker and coalition chairman said that Obama’s statements “causes discomfort and unease and bears an iota of hypocrisy.”
Hanegbi said that Obama was seeking to regain favor in the eyes of the American Jewish community as the US prepares to gear up for elections and as a deadline nears for consummation of an agreement with Iran over its nuclear program.
Danny Ayalon, the former deputy foreign minister and ambassador to Washington, said that Israel may be in for a rough final 18 months of the Obama presidency.
"We are certainly in a serious problem," he told Army Radio. "There are still 18 months remaining in President Obama's term, and these are 18 very important months as they relate to the Iranian issue, with or without an agreement."
Israel has been vocal in its criticism of the Obama administration's negotiations with the Iranian government over its nuclear program. While the Netanyahu administration has argued that the interim agreement reached last month with Tehran constitutes a "bad agreement," Obama believes the talks are the best means to prevent the Islamic Republic from obtaining an atomic bomb.
"Then there is the Palestinian issue," Ayalon said. "We know that the president's words don't fall into a vacuum."
Obama told The Atlantic
that “political forces” in Washington seek to provide the Netanyahu government with a rubber stamp for its policies.
The interview, with the magazine’s Jeffrey Goldberg, was published one day before the president is scheduled to address Congregation Adas Israel in Washington, where he is expected to outline his administration’s plans to combat a rising tide of anti-Semitism across Europe.
The discussion ranged from the US-led campaign against Islamic State to the president’s attitude toward the new Israeli government. Obama also discussed the emerging nuclear against Israel’s Arab community.
But “there has been a very concerted effort on the part of some political forces to equate being pro-Israel, and hence being supportive of the Jewish people, with a rubber stamp on a particular set of policies coming out of the Israeli government,” Obama said.
“So if you are questioning settlement policy, that indicates you’re anti-Israeli, or that indicates you’re anti-Jewish. If you express compassion or empathy towards Palestinian youth, who are dealing with checkpoints or restrictions on their ability to travel, then you are suspect in terms of your support of Israel,” he continued.
“But what I did say is that, when going into an election, Prime Minister Netanyahu said a Palestinian state would not happen under his watch, or there [was] discussion in which it appeared that Arab-Israeli citizens were somehow portrayed as an invading force that might vote, and that this should be guarded against. This is contrary to the very language of the Israeli Declaration of Independence, which explicitly states that all people regardless of race or religion are full participants in the democracy. When something like that happens, that has foreign-policy consequences, and precisely because we’re so close to Israel, for us to simply stand there and say nothing would have meant that this office, the Oval Office, lost credibility when it came to speaking out on these issues.”Michael Wilner contributed to this report.