President Obama has refused Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s request for a meeting when the Jewish nation’s leader attends the annual UN conference at the end of September. This marks the first time the American President has not met with Netanyahu when the Israeli Prime Minister was in the United States. Compounding the conflict between the two leaders is the fact that Obama has never visited Israel since he was elected President; even when he was in nearby Egypt making his famous address to the Islamic world in 2009.
The Israel leader will be in New York City for the annual meeting of the General Assembly and he offered to meet with Obama during the short three day visit. The Prime Minister’s Office said Netanyahu would be willing to travel to Washington DC to meet Obama, but the White House replied that it would not be possible because of time constraints imposed by Obama’s campaign schedule. Obama will not be in New York while Netanyahu is at the United Nations.
The reaction to the news was meet with concern in Israel, where even the normally liberal newspaper, Haaretz, reacted strongly to the news, saying “The White House’s response marks a new low in relations between Netanyahu and Obama, underscored by the fact that this is the first time Netanyahu will visit the U.S. as prime minister without meeting Obama.”
Obama claims that he “has Israels back,” and recently he stood before the Democratic Convention to tell American voters, “Four years ago, I stood before you and said that, “Israel’s security is sacrosanct. It is non-negotiable.” That belief has guided my actions as President. The fact is, my administration’s commitment to Israel’s security has been unprecedented.”
His critics claim otherwise, and say the refusal to meet with Netanyahu is Obama’s way of getting even for the Israeli leader’s highly critical remarks about Obama’s Iran Policy. Recently, Netanyahu was visibly angry, when spoke his mind to reporters:
“The world tells Israel ‘wait, there’s still time’. And I say, ‘Wait for what? Wait until when?’ 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.
“Now if Iran knows that there is no red line. If Iran knows that there is no deadline, what will it do? Exactly what it’s doing. It’s continuing, without any interference, towards obtaining nuclear weapons capability and from there, nuclear bombs.”
The Obama Administration was outraged by what they felt was another stab in the back by the Israeli Prime Minister. U.S. Department of State spokeswoman Victoria Nuland responded:
“We don’t think it’s particularly useful to have those conversations in public. It doesn’t help the process and it doesn’t help the integrity of the diplomacy. To be standing here at the podium parsing the details of the Iranian nuclear program is not helpful to getting where we want to go.”
Relations between Obama and Netanyahu have been getting progressively worse since Obama’s unfriendly behavior towards the Prime Minister on the occasion of his first visit to meet with the American President on March 23, 2010. The visit was described by the Daily Telegraph in a headline that read, “Benjamin Netanyahu was left to stew in a White House meeting room for over an hour after President Barack Obama abruptly walked out of tense talks to have supper with his family.”
When the Prime Minister returned to the the United States in May of 2011, Obama completely blindsided the shocked Israel leader, when he gave a speech the day before Netanyahu’s White House visit, saying, “the borders of Israel and Palestine should be based on the 1967 lines with mutually agreed [land] swaps, so that secure and recognized borders are established for both states.” Netanyahu was notified of the contents of the speech while he was on his jet, in transit to the United States. When he arrived at the White House, he stunned observers by taking Obama to task like he was a school child, lecturing him on Israel’s security needs. He later made matters worse by giving a rousing address in front of both Houses of Congress that brought Netanyahu more standing ovations than Obama’s State Of The Union address.
While the latest incident may come as a slight surprise to some observers, it should not have been totally unexpected. Obama has never tried to hide his contempt for Netanyahu, highlighted by his accidentally recorded chat with former French President Nicolas Sarkozy in November, 2011. An open mic picked up the conversation during which Sarkozy told Obama, “I cannot bear Netanyahu, he’s a liar,” and Obama replied, “You’re fed up with him, but I have to deal with him even more often than you.”
The world is on the brink over Iran, and one must wonder if the American President is still able to see past his personal opinion of the Israeli leader, and treat one of America’s strongest allies with the respect it has earned with 63 years of consistent support for American foreign policy. Israel is America’s partner in the struggle against Islamic extremism, and world terrorism. It is unbecoming, and worrisome, when an American President treats the elected leader of a close ally with open contempt, and acts as if Israel were an insignificant client nation, rather than one of our most loyal allies.