Obama smiles and waves 224.88.
(photo credit: AP)
US President Barack Obama's administration's criticism of Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu's policies has crossed the line into interfering in Israeli politics, top Likud ministers and MKs said Tuesday.
Kadima officials responded to the allegations by disagreeing that the US was meddling but expressing concern that such a perception by the Israeli public would harm their party and end up strengthening the prime minister. They accused Netanyahu's associates of portraying Obama as an enemy of Israel in order to unite the public behind him.
The charges of American interference began April 16 when Yediot Aharonot quoted Obama's chief of staff Rahm Emanuel telling an unnamed Jewish leader: "In the next four years there is going to be a permanent-status arrangement between Israel and the Palestinians on the basis of two states for two peoples, and it doesn't matter to us at all who is prime minister [of Israel]."
Likud Minister-without-Portfolio Yossi Peled said Tuesday that the statement was inappropriate and was just one of many examples of American interference in Israeli politics since Netanyahu's election in February.
Vice Premier Moshe Ya'alon, also of the Likud, has accused Israeli Leftist groups of coaching Obama's administration on how to handle Netanyahu.
Netanyahu himself appeared to endorse that assertion when he told a Likud MK over the weekend: "What do they want from me? Do they want my government to fall?"
Israeli diplomatic officials were quoted in Ma'ariv on Tuesday accusing the Obama administration of attempting to force Netanyahu to bring Kadima into his coalition and adopt its policies on the Palestinian-state issue.
"They are pressuring Livni to retreat from her opposition to joining Netanyahu's government, so she can enter it and prevent the worsening of relations with the US," a diplomatic official was quoted as saying.
Likud MK Danny Danon, who has close ties with Evangelical leaders in the US, was most blunt in his criticism of Obama. He said Obama refused to admit that the public in Israel chose a different direction, just like America did.
"The American administration thinks that there were only elections in the US," Danon said. "Any attempt to intervene in Israeli politics only strengthens Netanyahu, who has the support of the public, especially after this interference."
Information and Diaspora Minister Yuli Edelstein (Likud) rejected claims that the Obama administration was interfering, but he admitted that it did seem that way.
"It looks like illegitimate interference in Israeli politics, but it isn't," he said. "The Obama administration is simply sending up trial balloons. They are testing Bibi to see how far he will bend."
Kadima MKs and officials said they did not like to see headlines alleging that Washington was trying to help their party at the Likud's expense. They said they did not believe the headlines were true, and they accused Netanyahu's associates of being behind them.
Livni's associates said she succeeded in convincing former American secretary of state Condoleezza Rice to allow Israel to build in West Bank settlement blocs, because Rice trusted her and realized Israel wasn't trying to change the facts on the ground. They said that Netanyahu, by contrast, failed to win Obama's trust and instead was campaigning against him in the Israeli media.
"I don't sense that there is American interference in Israeli politics," a source close to Livni said. "The press is playing into Bibi's hands by reporting that there is. Instead of confronting the important issues that the Obama administration has raised, Bibi has been trying to drag Obama into the Israeli political arena. He is taking the easy way out by trying to make a man named Hussein the bad guy."