An Inside Look At How Obama Killed
The U.S.-Israel Relationship
By Adam Kredo
June 19, 2015
In his new
memoir, former Israeli Ambassador Michael Oren documents the rapid dissolution
of the historically close U.S.-Israel alliance under President Barack Obama.
Oren recounts being threatened and intimidated at multiple junctures by Obama
and his senior officials, marking many firsts in a relationship that has long
been the cornerstone of American foreign policy.
The memoir, Ally:
My Journey Across the American-Israeli Divide, has already
rushed to the
top of Amazon’s bestseller list. It provides a window into the daily
stresses and strains Obama and his allies heaped upon the Jewish state—from
placing unprecedented demands on Israel regarding the peace process to
fabricating crises in the U.S.-Israel alliance.
was not required to foresee that an Obama presidency might strain the
U.S.-Israel alliance,” Oren writes in the early pages of his book.
his administration with senior officials hostile to Israel and pursued a policy
of “daylight” with Jewish state, Oren recounts.
thing Obama will do in office is pick a fight with Israel,” Oren recalls a
confidant as telling him in the early days of the administration.
Below are a
series of passages that reveal in detail how the U.S.-Israel alliance hit
historic lows under the Obama administration.
‘I know how to deal with people who oppose me’
between Obama and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel began during their
first meeting at the White House, Oren recalls. While the meeting appeared
to go “smoothly,” behind the scenes Obama outwardly threatened Netanyahu.
I later heard, Obama had demanded that Netanyahu cease all building not only in
the territories but also in the disputed areas of Jerusalem,” Oren writes.
“‘Not a single brick,’” the president purportedly said. ‘I know how to
deal with people who oppose me.’”
Israel Defense Forces (IDF) Commanders Never Trusted Obama
listening to Obama’s 2009
speech in Cairo while stationed in the IDF’s headquarters. “Their
reactions typified that of a great many Israelis.”
commanders “scoffed at what they regarded as Obama’s inexperience with the
Middle East, where magnanimity is often seen as weakness. They cringed at his
tendency to equate America’s moral foibles with the honor killings, human
trafficking, and the suppression of women, foreign workers, and indigenous
minorities rampant in many Muslim countries,” Oren writes.
only grew dimmer when Obama “linked that legitimacy [of Israel] to the Jews’
‘tragic history’ in the Holocaust. That linkage seemed to me to be the most
damaging part of his speech.”
The Anti-Israel State Department
meeting with then-Deputy Secretary of State Jim Steinberg was fraught and filled
with demands that Israel consent to Obama administration demands for a total
building freeze in Jerusalem. Such intimidation and threats would be a
cornerstone of Oren’s meetings with senior officials at Foggy Bottom.
indeed mired my initial meeting with Deputy Secretary of State Jim Steinberg,”
administration’s policy, a Jew could only build his home in certain Jerusalem
neighborhoods but an Arab could build anywhere—even illegally—without limit.
‘In America,’ I said, ‘that’s called discrimination.’”
Later in his
tenure, Steinberg would again upbraid Oren. State Department staffers apparently
in on” the angry meeting and “cheered,” according to Oren.
Congressional Democrats Scold Oren
A handful of
congressional Democrats berated Oren during his first trip to Capitol Hill as
first conversation, Sen. Bill Nelson of Florida caught me off guard with a
letter from a constituent alleging ‘Israeli economic apartheid’ in the
territories,” Oren recalls.
“Senator Dianne Feinstein offered me a glass of select California wine and
said, ‘I am a peacemaker but you are a fighter.’”
Later in the
book, Oren recalls taking a call from Sen. Barbara Boxer (D., Calif.), who
“railed at me so furiously [about Israeli criticism of Obama] that I literally
had to hold the phone form my ear.”
Obama Tells Off Prominent American Jewish Leaders in Private Meeting
first meeting with a delegation of top American Jewish leaders was tense,
according to Oren.
gatherings “had become standard” for previous White Houses, “for Obama …
the briefings were less a means of garnering support than of muting opposition.
Indeed, what many American Jewish leaders saw as the placing of undue pressure
on Israel, the president regarded as displays of restraint.”
the anti-Israel fringe group J Street to participate in these private meetings,
a move that angered more mainstream Jewish leaders.
Rahm Emanuel’s Angry Outbursts
House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel, notorious for his profanity-laden outbursts,
woke Oren one morning with an angry call.
like this f***ing shit,” Oren quotes Emanuel as saying about Israel’s
refusal to stop building Jewish homes in disputed territories.
knew, was not enamored of my boss or of the American Jewish leaders whom he
faulted for backing Netanyahu unconditionally,” Oren writes.
Later in the
book, Oren recalls Emanuel referring to a settlement dispute between Israel and
the U.S. as “a pimple on the ass of the U.S.-Israel friendship.”
White House Orders Senior Officials to Criticize Israel
In addition to
privately embracing the anti-Israel fringe group J Street, the Obama
administration sent top officials to speak at its first national conference in
refused to participate in the event, reveals that Obama administration officials
had direct orders to criticize Israel publicly.
Rosenthal, the administration’s former adviser on anti-Semitism, “issued her
first denunciation not of anti-Semites, but rather of me for boycotting the
summit,” Oren writes.
eventually became a friend and I never took her comment personally,” he adds.
“Nor did I believe that she acted on her own, since I later learned that some
of the criticism emanated directly from the White House.”
Hillary Clinton Refuses to Meet With Oren
that in the early days of his tenure, then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton
refused to meet with him in person.
out to Hillary Clinton, asking for a private meeting, only to be rebuffed,”
Blows Her Top
of State Hillary Clinton learned of Israeli plans to transform a slum in
Jerusalem into a ritzy tourist mall, “she nearly blew her top,” according to
The slum was
deemed controversial due to its location in an East Jerusalem neighborhood the
administration considered as disputed.
practically had to scrape her off the ceiling,” according to a senior American
official who spoke to Oren.
White House Wrongly Accuses Oren Of Interfering in U.S. Politics
U.S.-Israel tensions hit a high point in 2010, Oren frantically sought to
diffuse the hostility by setting up a meeting with then-Senior White House
Adviser David Axelrod.
“I urged him
to find a way out of a situation that I feared might become dangerous for
Israel, but Axelrod calmly brushed this aside,” Oren recalls. “Instead, he
accused me of urging congressmen to hold on until [the] 2012 [elections], that
Obama would never get reelected. That charge of interfering in internal American
politics could have rendered me persona non grata and resulted in my expulsion
from the United States.”
Obama Withholds Vital Arms From Israel
furiously to secure a deal with U.S. officials for 20 F-35 Joint Strike
Fighters, Obama cancelled the arms sale, according to Oren.
for Israel, was calamitous,” Oren writes. “Editorials—apparently fanned by
official sources—suggested that the F-35s has been an Israeli demand, rather
than an American offer.”
Robert Gates Has A ‘Visceral Dislike of Netanyahu’
A $60 billion U.S.
arms sale to Saudi Arabia in 2010 sent Israeli officials scrambling.
Israeli leaders saw the sale as an affront to the Jewish State’s Qualitative
Military Edge (QME), a longstanding deal in which the United States has assured
Israel’s military supremacy in the region.
concerns [about maintaining the QME] unnerved Netanyahu in a July 6 meeting with
[former Secretary of Defense] Robert Gates,” who had “long harbored a
visceral dislike of Netanyahu,” according to Oren.
animus” between Netanyahu and Gates “was discernible in the Blair House
reception room, where Netanyahu promptly took Gates to task for the Saudi
White House Orders Israel to Hold Off On Iran Strike
As the Iranian
march for nuclear weapons hit a critical point in the summer of 2009, the Obama
administration publicly affirmed Israel’s right to defend itself.
scenes, though, the White House ordered Israel to lay off Tehran.
… the message was ‘Don’t you dare,’” Oren recalls. “Washington
quietly quashed any military option for Israel.”
Obama Destroys ‘More Than 40 Years of American Policy’ Toward Israel
On the eve of
a critical vote at the United Nations on a Palestinian-backed resolution to
condemn Israeli settlements, Obama held a 50-minute phone call with President
Mahmoud Abbas of the Palestinian Authority .
that call, promised to “renew America’s demand for a total freeze on Israeli
construction in the West Bank and East Jerusalem.” He also promised to lend
his support “for a Palestinian state based on the 1967 lines,” an
unprecedented call from a U.S. president, Oren writes.
never consulted about this conversation nor even informed,” Oren writes,
claiming that the White House even lied about the conversation. “The White
House spokesman insisted the subject was Egypt.”
Minster’s Office had learned of Obama’s offer to Abbas from U.N. sources,
not the United States, and was outraged,” Oren recounts. “The White House
has overnight altered more than forty years of American policy” and “Israel
Susan Rice Yells At Oren
White House’s move to leave Israel in the dark on the U.N. vote, Oren met with
then-U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice.
Rice sat in
her New York office “brooding and peevishly tapping her forehead with her
finger,” according to Oren.
freeze all settlement activity,” Oren recalls her saying. “Otherwise the
United States will not be able to protect Israel from Palestinian actions at the
don’t appreciate the fact that we defend you night and day, tell us,’ Rice
fumed, practically rapping her forehead. ‘We have other important things to
‘The President is Going to Take On the Prime Minister’
Ahead of the
American Israel Public Affairs Committee’s (AIPAC) annual conference in
Washington, a senior U.S. official told Oren that Obama was out to “take on”
were scheduled to give talks at the pro-Israel lobbying group’s annual confab.
president is going to take on the prime minster in front of AIPAC,” former
White House Chief Of Staff Bill Daley told Oren. “And if he gets booed, so
Obama Officials Embrace ‘Israel Lobby’ Canard
Writing in the
York Times after Netanyahu’s address to AIPAC, columnist Tom
Friedman asked if “Netanyahu understands that the standing ovation he got in
Congress was bought and paid for by the Israel lobby.”
Tom the moment the article came online and urged him to retract it,” Oren
recalls. “You’ve confirmed the worst anti-Semitic stereotype, that Jews
purchase seats in Congress,” Oren informed him.
response: “For every call I’ve received protesting, I’ve gotten ten
congratulating me for finally telling the truth. … Many of those calls were
from senior administration officials.”
Senior State Department Official Curses at Oren
between the United States and Israel reached another boiling point when the
Palestinian Authority moved to gain unilateral recognition at the U.N.
law mandated that such a move should result in the closure of the Palestinian
Liberation Organization’s Washington office, the cut off of U.S. aid to the
PA, and the termination of all U.S. funding to any U.N. organization that
strongly endorsed all three repercussions, which the White House just as
vehemently opposed,” Oren writes.
Israel’s cause at the State Department, Oren was chastised by Deputy Secretary
want the fucking U.N. to collapse because of your fucking conflict with the
Palestinians, and you don’t want the fucking Palestinian Authority to fall
apart either,” Nides purportedly said to Oren.
Obama Hearts Erdoğan
meeting at the White House with Israeli leaders, Obama allegedly expressed great
support and faith in Turkish leader Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, a notorious
critic of Israel who has promoted anti-Semitic conspiracy theories.
living in the sixteenth century,” Obama told the Israelis present in the
meeting, according to Oren. “We could do much worse than have a bunch of
Erdogans in the Middle East.”
Obama Keeps Israel In Dark About Syria Strikes
United States first decided to launch airstrikes against Syria, Israel was left
in the dark, another first in the U.S.-Israel relationship, according to Oren.
learned about the strikes while listening to the radio.
froze in mid-shave,” he writes. “Wiping the foam from my face, I rushed to
the embassy. The once-sacred principle of ‘no surprises’ in the U.S.-Israel
alliance had fallen into desuetude during the Obama period, but never to this
depth on an issue so vital to our immediate security.”
Obama Only Backs Israel ‘Because That’s What the American People Want’
another meeting between Obama and Netanyahu, the president attempted to reassure
Israel that it would defend it in any war with Iran.
that he only backs Israel because a plurality of Americans demands it.
“If war comes, we’re with you, because that’s what the American people want,” Oren recalls Obama saying.