Is Obama anti-Semitic? Netanyahu brother-in-law causes ruckus.

The office of Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Wednesday rejected the remarks of his brother-in-law Hagai Ben Artzi, who called President Obama 'anti-Semitic.' But how many other Israelis share Mr. Ben Artzi's view?

Gil Cohen Magen/Reuters
Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu distanced himself Wednesday from the views of his brother-in-law, who called President Obama anti-Semitic.

At the height of the worst Israel-US crisis in decades, Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was forced to distance himself Wednesday from the views of his brother-in-law, who called President Obama "anti-Semitic" over the airwaves this morning.

In an interview with Israel Army Radio on Wednesday, Hagai Ben Artzi, the brother of Netanyahu's wife Sara, reportedly said: "it needs to be said clearly and simply: There is an anti-Semitic president in the US. It's not that Obama doesn't sympathize with [Mr. Netanyahu]. He doesn't sympathize with the people of Israel."

Netanyahu's office swifty published a condemnation: "I entirely reject the remarks of Hagai Ben Artzi."

IN PICTURES: Israeli settlements

Family ties?

Mr. Ben Artzi, who has a history of controversial remarks, is family in more than one way.

The hardliner – who's held positions as a bible lecturer at a religious college in Jerusalem, and in the Education Ministry, and has a doctorate in Israel thought and philosophy from Hebrew University in Jerusalem – also represents the family of hawkish nationalists who support Netanyahu and for whom any movement on the peace process is going to stir tension.

The Israeli daily Haaretz reported that Knesset Member Michael Ben Ari of the far-right National Union party recently hung a poster with a picture in which Obama looks like he is bowing to a Gulf prince, underneath a headline, "Caution! [Palestine Liberation Organization] Agent in the White House!''

Suspicion of Obama

So how widespread are those views of Obama in Israel?

The opinions recall suspicions voiced about Obama in Israel during his run for the presidency that were based on his Muslim relatives and a former pastor whose sermons occasionally included remarks considered anti-Semitic.

Mitchell Barak, a pollster who used to work with Netanyahu, says there is widespread alienation among Israelis regarding Obama, whom many consider the US president most unsympathetic to Israel for decades.

That said, both Ben Artzi and Ben Ari represent fringe opinions, says Mr. Barak.

"The problem with the extremist right groups," he says, "is that they can't recognize anyone that doesn't shares the opinions of their own group.''

IN PICTURES: Israeli settlements

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