Rift between Israel and the United States: Flotilla incident didn't help
A closer look at Jewish anger over President Obama’s policies after the flotilla raid incident.
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“There are three trends working very much against Israel: demography [i.e., high Arab birthrates], ideology [militant Islam], and technology,” a close aide to Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton told me recently. “With the distances rockets can travel, the old kind of thought is proving untenable.”Skip to next paragraph
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Veteran Israeli journalist Jerrold Kessel defends Obama’s record. “It’s Israel that is at fault,” not Obama, he told me. “Netanyahu needs to propose and support an equitable solution of the Palestinian issue, absent ‘right of return’ for the Palestinian diaspora. At the same time, Obama must convince Israel and the Jews that America will work to neutralize the Iranian threat.”
Prior to the botched interdiction by Israeli forces at sea, it looked as though Obama might be gaining an upper hand in his dealings with “Bibi” Netanyahu. But Obama’s dilemma now is that as the rest of the world condemns Israel, his margin for diplomatic maneuvering is narrower.
And Obama would be foolish to expect gratitude from Netanyahu or his supporters in the US. After months of this personal vilification, one can only wonder how much the anti-Obama vitriol is coordinated from within Netanyahu’s office.
I have firsthand experience with such campaigns. During Bibi’s first administration, his press secretary, the late David Bar Ilan, organized a campaign to get me fired from my post as CNN Jerusalem bureau chief because, as one Netanyahu staffer told me, I “could not be made to heel.”
Then-CNN president Tom Johnson told me: “Walt, we’ve been getting 500 e-mails, letters, and calls for six months demanding we get rid of you.” Ehud Barak, who defeated Bibi in the next Israeli election, later called the Netanyahu government’s attacks on me shameless. They stopped when Bibi left office.
The problem for the Israelis is that Netanyahu could seriously overplay his hand, as he has done in times past.
Another veteran Israeli journalist who cannot be named told me that senior Obama officials, such as Secretary Clinton and White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel, are taking a no-nonsense approach toward Netanyahu’s bravado. “Today, Israel is a liability,” he said. “The best thing Israel can do is be quiet and stay out of America’s hair.”
That seems unlikely to happen.
Walter Rodgers, a former senior international correspondent for CNN, writes a biweekly column.
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