By William Booth
The Washington Post
June 19, 2015
JERUSALEM — If there was any
lingering doubt that President Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin
Netanyahu are estranged, now comes fresh evidence the two leaders and their
proxies are engaged in a remarkably nasty, seriously personal tit-for-tat about
who did whom wrong over the past six years.
On Tuesday, Michael B. Oren, a former
Israeli ambassador to the United States, wrote an opinion
piece in the Wall Street Journal that said the failed relationship between
Obama and Netanyahu was all Obama’s fault.
On Wednesday, U.S. Ambassador to
Israel Daniel B. Shapiro told
Israel Army Radio, essentially, that Oren is a know-nothing fabulist trying
to hawk his new book.
On Thursday, Israeli officials told
local media that Shapiro had called members of the Netanyahu cabinet, as well as
the prime minister himself, to request that they
distance themselves from Oren’s commentary, in which the former ambassador
accused the U.S. president of “abandoning
On Friday, a senior official in the
prime minister’s office told The Washington Post that Netanyahu had no
intention of apologizing for anything Oren wrote.
“Michael Oren, who is not a member
of the government, wrote an article in the Wall Street Journal and a book, which
reflect his own views,” the official said.
“It is curious that the U.S.
administration is concerned about remarks by a former Israeli government
official but is silent when former U.S. government officials,” such as former
peace negotiator Martin Indyk and former Obama adviser David Axelrod, “have
been critical of Prime Minister Netanyahu,” the official said.
Indyk served two tours as U.S.
ambassador to Israel and most recently was a top negotiator in Secretary of
State John F. Kerry’s failed brokering of peace talks between Israel and the
Indyk has not exactly attacked
Netanyahu personally. In
a speech in May 2014, the Brookings Institution scholar singled out
Israel’s settlement building in the occupied West Bank as a key
reason for the failure of the peace talks.
After Netanyahu promised Israeli
voters on the eve of his reelection that there would never be an independent
Palestinian state on his watch, Axelrod called the message “very divisive”
and said the prime minister would do anything to stay in power. Netanyahu later
walked back his remarks and also said that he did not mean to be divisive when
he warned his political base to get to the polls because Arab Israelis were
voting “in droves.”
In his Journal opinion piece, Oren
charged that Obama personally undermined U.S. relations with Israel by allowing
private quarrels to become public.
Shapiro, the U.S. ambassador,
suggested on Army Radio that Oren did not know what he was talking about.
Calls for an apology to Obama have met
with some success in Israel. Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon, who leads the
political party to which Oren belongs, apologized
to the White House for his colleague’s remarks.
So did Strategic Affairs Minister Gilad Erdan, who said Oren’s observations “do not match the reality.”