Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu last met with President Obama at the The tortured relationship between Barack and Bibi, as they call each other . quoted the Talmud and visited the grave of Theodor Herzl, the father of. At a recent gathering of the Israel Council on Foreign Relations, the Obama's remarkable memoir, “Dreams from My Father,” includes a. It's a peculiar feature of American relations with Israel that more than a few Vainly, I scoured Dreams from My Father (Obama's first book) for.
Even though administration officials say the date was selected at random, one of them now admits that "our timing wasn't great. When discussing the future border, Obama said it would be based on the lines, with mutually agreed land swaps—a position very similar to those staked out by Bill Clinton and George W.
Bush during their presidencies. Administration officials said that the speech was good for Israel on a host of other important issues and that Netanyahu could have easily presented it as a victory. Netanyahu chose another strategy. It began with a private discussion, which aides from both sides describe as polite and positive. He also complained that the administration was only criticizing Israel for the stalled peace process, giving a "free pass" to the Palestinians.
Obama didn't agree, but, according to one official, he appreciated that Netanyahu was making his points respectfully and in private. One Israeli official described Hillary Clinton's call to Netanyahu as "violent. Dozens of journalists filled the room, while aides fiddled with their phones in the back. After a short statement by Obama, it was Netanyahu's turn to speak.
For the next seven minutes, he expounded on why his country could never go back to the lines. To emphasize his point, Netanyahu started listing basic historical and geographical facts about Israel. What was supposed to be a routine joint statement now looked like the gray-haired Netanyahu giving his younger counterpart a history lesson.
Scenes from a Marriage
The Israeli and American officials in the room had completely different reactions. The Israelis felt relief. On his way to Washington, fuming over Obama's mention of the digitsNetanyahu had rehearsed an even more didactic version of the lecture, in which he would address Obama directly. They were glad to see that Netanyahu had taken their advice. But Obama's staff was apoplectic. One Israeli official said it was impossible not to notice the angry looks and hear whispers of "how can he do this? He waited patiently for the prime minister to finish, and then accompanied him to his limo in good spirits.President Barack Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu sought to warm rocky relations,
One official described the feeling in the White House at the time in two words: According to a senior White House official, the Israelis proposed a number of ideas to defuse the tension. Perhaps Netanyahu and Obama could be photographed watching football together. Or maybe the president could cross the street to Blair House America's official residence for visiting foreign leaders so that he and Netanyahu could be filmed saying only nice things to each other.
It means that the parties themselves will negotiate a border that is different than the one that existed on June 4, Obama thought the speech was a major success: Who could have imagined that the entire AIPAC conference would get on its feet to support " borders with land swaps"?
But in some Israeli news outlets, another narrative emerged. Sources close to Netanyahu briefed the press corps that after Netanyahu scolded Obama in the Oval Office and addressed the U. Congress, the president was forced to soften his position. Netanyahu refuses to have such conversations at the Blair House: There is always a chance that someone is listening. Where Benjamin and Sara hold some of their most sensitive discussions in New York is less predictable, since it depends on where Sheldon Adelson happens to be.
Last year, after Bibi railed against Hamas from the U. This year, when Sara entered the U. After angry members demanded to know why the national parliament had been converted into a wedding venue, the Knesset chairman said he was approached by Benjamin Netanyahu, then the deputy foreign minister, who described the event as "a private evening honoring donors to Israel.
Michael Oren: Inside Obama-Netanyahu’s Relationship
Many Israelis call it the "Bibi-ton," a combination of Netanyahu's nickname and the Hebrew word for newspaper. Even Netanyahu's right-wing coalition partners have publicly referred to it as "Bibi's Pravda. On the one hand, he was still the elected leader of Israel, working with the president on sensitive issues like new sanctions against Iran. Eventually, Bibi settled on a strategy: According to a former White House official, the result was that "there were two kinds of discussions involving Bibi during Is he working against us?
After Romney spoke about Iran in a joint appearance with Netanyahu, the prime minister said, "I couldn't agree with you more, Mitt. Never before had such a high-profile fundraiser for an American presidential candidate taken place on Israeli soil in the middle of an election. The Romney campaign is using you, they warned him.
Netanyahu expressed surprise to hear that even pro-Israeli Democrats were being targeted by groups on the right—a claim that not everyone in the room found convincing. Did he feel better about Romney than Obama on both a personal and an ideological level?
But was he actively working to change the outcome of the election? A senior Israeli official explains that the prime minister only said that to warn Obama against conceding too much to Iran, but to many spectators, it looked like another attempt to hurt the president in the elections. In the months leading up to the election, say two former aides to the prime minister, Ron Dermer repeatedly presented Netanyahu with polls showing that Obama was vulnerable.
Multiple senior Israeli and American officials testify that Dermer's analysis—which Netanyahu highly appreciated—was that Obama would likely end up a one-term president. And on Election Day, one former staffer says, Netanyahu and Dermer "were in a complete euphoria. Even hours before the exit polls, Dermer was still explaining to people in the office why Romney was going to win. Henrique Cymerman, a Portuguese-born Israeli journalist, says that he once talked to Netanyahu about Israel's failure to connect to the Hispanic community, and Bibi replied: He beat Romney in almost every swing state and received almost 70 percent of the Jewish vote, despite the unprecedented effort to portray him as anti-Israel.
The morning after the election, Netanyahu invited Shapiro, now the U. Shapiro, an Illinois native who is fluent in Hebrew and very popular in Israel, had worked for Obama since and was close with both Netanyahu and Dermer.
Netanyahu used to ask him to join him in first class on flights to the U. Netanyahu believed that a positive meeting with the ambassador was a necessary first step in restoring his relationship with the White House.
When Shapiro arrived, Netanyahu asked his official videographers to film the two of them congratulating the president. On camera, Netanyahu found all the right words. He explained that "the security cooperation between our countries is rock-solid. Of his many headaches, this one was too small to register, according to a senior administration official.
Why Obama hates Netanyahu, and vice versa | The Times of Israel
But what he did care about—and what frustrated him to no end—was his toxic reputation in Israel. After all, Obama liked to think of himself as "the most Jewish president ever"—a phrase he used in meetings with Jewish-American leaders more than once.
He also knew that military and intelligence cooperation between the two countries was at an all-time high. Senior Israeli officials agreed. In that instance, the president leaned on the Egyptians until they intervened, saving the lives of six Israeli security guards trapped inside the building. Determined to repair the damage, he arranged for his first presidential visit to Israel shortly after his re-election.
He made an effort to appear friendly with Netanyahu, who had also recently won another term. He took off his jacket as they visited an Iron Dome battery and made reference to "my friend Bibi" in their joint press availability. A number of ideas related to the Palestinians were discussed, but Dermer suggested a better option.
In Maya Turkish Islamist organization had tried to send a flotilla carrying food and construction materials into Gaza. When the ships were stopped by the Israeli Navy, activists violently attacked Israeli soldiers with knives and bats. The soldiers then pulled their guns, killing nine of the activists. In response, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said he was suspending diplomatic ties with Israel until Netanyahu apologized and compensated the families.
The incident was a major headache for the Obama administration: So, in that pre-trip meeting, Dermer told Netanyahu that he should give Obama the opportunity to reconcile the crisis while he was in Israel.
Netanyahu knew his supporters on the right would hate the idea, but he admitted that it was genius. They both agreed that it had to be scripted from start to finish, or else it wouldn't work. There was always a chance that once Netanyahu and Erdogan got on the phone Erdogan would call the Israeli soldiers terrorists, Netanyahu would accuse Turkey of supporting Hamas and an opportunity would turn into a disaster.
Obama was scheduled to leave on March 23, and by the time his motorcade reached the airport, it still wasn't clear whether the call would happen. The Israeli military placed a special trailer on the tarmac next to Air Force One for last-minute discussions. After about half an hour inside the trailer, Obama received a version of the script. He liked what he saw and handed it to Netanyahu. Gordon contacted Turkish officials to go over Netanyahu's concerns, and, for a few minutes, the trailer was silent.
Obama spoke first, asking Bibi if he wanted a cup of coffee while he was up getting one for himself. Just then, word came that Erdogan had accepted Netanyahu's fixes. The call went through, and Obama took off with a successful ending to a successful trip. A few days later, opinion polls in Israel showed Obama crossing the 50 percent approval mark for the first time since Some Israeli pundits even suggested the two heads of state might become friends and usher in a brand-new era of cooperation.
By the spring ofObama and Netanyahu had spoken on the phone every few weeks for four years. Bibi says something positive, like thanking Obama for Iron Dome or for his support at some U.
Leaders have something in common that no one else can understand—a lack of sleep and an overdose of problems. President, you think Congress is tough? And the prime minister felt he had to dig his heels on that issue. On the contrary, I was informed that they would not mention it.
I was in the White House the previous day. So tell me the story. Israel in attacked the Iraqi nuclear reactor without telling the United States. But those examples are few and very far between. For the most part, these two principles held. No daylight was, we can have our differences, and they can be sometimes very deep differences over settlements over Jerusalem.
No surprises meant that if the United States was going to give a major policy statement on the Middle East that would impact Israel and its security, then Israel would have a chance to view that statement in advance and to submit its comments. That was the case, inwith Bush and the roadmap. He gave it to Ari Sharon before he [went] public with it.
Israel had no advance warning of the Cairo speech. By that time, I had been almost two years in the office, and I had grown accustomed to the fact that I was not going to get any advance warning. I was just very curious. There were rumors floating around. I did a lot of press at the time, and it was difficult to explain why this was so earth-shattering. In diplomacy, you work out a framework for negotiations. And Israel and Secretary Clinton had worked out, laboriously, over many weeks, perhaps months of negotiations, the TOR.
Now, I have this TOR more or less emblazoned on my soul, to this day, and it goes something like this: The United States believes that through good-faith negotiations, it can reconcile the Israeli goal of an independent Jewish state within secure and defensible borders and the Palestinian goal of an independent Palestinian state, based on the borders with mutually agreed swaps.
And there sometimes was a little add about taking into account changes on the ground, which was a reference to settlement blocs. So what in the TOR had been a Palestinian goal all of a sudden moved over to an American goal, by the way, for the first time since That was the true problem here, because peace, if you can achieve it, has got to be based on trust.
So it was quite a tense period. And Netanyahu, as it happens, comes the next day, May I had never seen him like that coming out of the plane. You know, you come out of the plane, usually you land at Dulles or at Andrews Air Force Base, and you smile for the cameras.
There was no smile. There was no wave. You can almost imagine the steam coming out of his ears. We proceeded to Blair House, where his team of advisers tried to calm it down, but he had things he wanted to say to the president.
So, you know, I become the messenger here. And the events transpired very quickly then. We have a good meeting in the White House. There is a one-on-one that characteristically goes on more than twice its scheduled time.
The two leaders emerge. They have this talk. Netanyahu gives his aboutminute speech, which he managed to memorize very quickly.
He has that capability. And the remarks are addressed to the Palestinians. The Palestinians have to understand that Israel is the Jewish state. They have to understand that Israel has to have a prolonged military presence along the Jordan River to prevent any future Palestinian state from becoming Gaza or South Lebanon.
There are a number of things that the Palestinians have to understand.
They understand that Palestinian refugees are going to come back to Palestine and not to Israel. And then afterward, the prime minister and the president stroll on the South Lawn for about 20 minutes.
And you guys were all cordial but slightly anxious about what is actually happening behind closed doors? We actually had a serious discussion about the content of the speech. And Secretary Clinton was there and made the case that major efforts had been made to change the tone of the speech, change the content of the speech.
Because you guys had indicated that there was some electric tension in the air. I had very open channels with people in the White House. That it would be a mistake to react angrily to this. The prime minister is talking. But Bill Daley was angry. Bill Daley was very angry. But the whole point of our preparation was to avoid that moment. And, you know, diplomacy is supposedly the art of the possible.
And this was that moment. Now, it begs the question whether various parties had an interest in making that a crisis moment. The same thing was true about the so-called snub. Do you think it was a snub? What happened was that the prime minister was making sort of a snap visit to Washington.
It turned out, I think, that it was the Jewish Federations were meeting there in Washington. That location changes every year — just happened to be there. The president was not supposed to be in Washington that day, but his schedule changed, … so we hastily threw together this meeting. It was really an 11th-hour job. We rush over to the White House.
We get in there at 7: We sat in the Roosevelt Room and worked until 9: We worked until The president stayed for at least an hour, and then we remained at the White House until about 2: I get back to the hotel, and we were snubbed: Who was responsible for that spin?
It could have been many people. And all of a sudden, you have to deal with the new reality.
And Vice President Biden has had a long, warm connection, not just with the American Jewish community but with Israel, … and [he] had a close relationship with Netanyahu. Netanyahu had no idea that this was coming. The announcement was made by a midlevel Interior Ministry official.
Bibi And Barack: Scenes From A Failed Marriage - The Huffington Post
These apartments were going to be built years in advance, years from that time, but it was part of a process, a seven-tier process you have to go through in order to build some and-whatever units. That was the headline by some very prominent journalists.
We spent pretty much that entire night working out the language of the speech that the vice president was going to give the next day at Tel Aviv University, in which he was going to condemn this announcement. You can regret something. You can deplore something.
You can abhor something. And many Israelis were taken aback by it. Some Israelis applauded it. But we agreed to it.
We signed off on it in the middle of the night. I took the vice president on a helicopter tour of Israel after that, said goodbye to him at the steps of his airplane. We got past it. We managed to avert a crisis. I had learned that there had been a minute conversation between the secretary of state and the prime minister in which he had been excoriated by her, and that I would be reprimanded for humiliating the president. I hastily gathered my staff. This is, remember, you land at 5: This is going to take place probably around This is an artificial crisis.
Nobody in Israel is going to believe this anger. Perhaps the lowest moment, I must tell you, was not the reprimand at the State Department. The roughest moment was when [Obama senior adviser] David Axelrod appears on the Sunday talk shows and is asked point blank whether Israel is a strategic asset or a liability to the United States, and he dodges the question.
I saw this as a strategic problem. Six years in, the luster is gone.
The optimistic zeal for global engagement has faded into a handful of minimalist principles: It is an animus that longtime observers of US-Israel relations often point to but rarely try to explain. Netanyahu is unabashedly sectoral. His rhetoric over the past six years is dominated by endlessly repeated platitudes about Jewish history and Jewish rights.
Even when he offers a rhetorical olive branch, as in his famous speech at Bar-Ilan University, he refuses to include language that accepts as a matter of principle the legitimacy of competing narratives. Basically what you got here is Koreans and Arabs running the stores, the Jews still owning most of the buildings. When we hear one of them Koreans is mistreating a customer, we gonna be on the case.
We gonna insist that they respect us and make a contribution back to the community—fund our programs, what have you. Netanyahu, too, despises Obama. And Israel stands to pay a heavy price for that personality quirk, not only in the mismanaged peace efforts but in the far more dangerous battleground of the Iran crisis. Netanyahu grew up in the identity politics that have confounded Obama. He grasps as his American counterpart cannot the role that narratives of national identity play in domestic and international politics.
This understanding has convinced him that peace with the Palestinians cannot be achieved without legitimation. Unless the Palestinian national movement becomes able to accept that there is some legitimacy to the Jewish claim to a homeland in Israel, Palestinian leaders will remain frozen in place and unable to compromise for peace.
For Netanyahu, then, any American strategy that begins with Israeli concessions instead of seeking a shift in the basic narrative of the other side puts the cart before the horse — and all but ensures continued failure. It must be said: For Netanyahu, too, the political costs of compromise are not small, and will only grow as Palestinian politics remains hunkered down in their rejectionist narrative.
A country the size of Western Europe with a record of hiding entire facilities and lying repeatedly to IAEA inspectors and the UN Security Council cannot be trusted to abide by an agreement.