President Barack Obama apparently is planning his revenge on Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu according to an Associated Report from Friday, Feb. 20, 2015. Among the most viable plans are one to shun the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) Policy Conference by sending low-level officials to address the conference. Obama is also thinking of sitting down to an interview to counter everything Netanyahu might say about Iran nuclear talks and a potential deal in his address to Congress. Additionally “senior national security aides” are planning interviews on the Sunday political talks all around the weekend before Netanyahu’s March 3 address to Congress.
Usually high-level administration officials speak at the Israel’s lobby annual conference, including Vice President Joe Biden or Secretary of State John Kerry and even Obama addressed the conference in 2012 when he needed to butter up Jewish voters be get reelected president. This year the White House is considering sending Deputy Secretary of State Tony Blinken and Treasury Secretary Jack Lew, the administration highest level Jewish official and Obama’s favorite to send out to represent the administration at Jewish functions.
Obama also plans that week to give a high profile interview with unnamed but “prominent journalist known for coverage of the rift between Obama.” Some of his advisors suggested that the president counter Netanyahu’s address with a speech at AIPAC, but that idea has been vetoed, since it might benefit Netanyahu more than Obama.
Two of the most vocal potential 2016 Republican presidential candidates, frontrunner Jeb Bush and Texas Senator Ted Cruz responded on Twitter with indignation to the reports about Obama’s plans. Bush tweeted “Very disappointed the White House would try to undermine @netanyahu’s speech, our strongest ally in the Middle East.” While Cruz wrote, “We’re stronger when we stand firmly with our allies. RT to let @netanyahu know he will be warmly welcomed when he visits DC next month.”
Although the relationship between Netanyahu and Obama has always been rocky, since Netanyahu accepted Speaker of the House John Boehner, R-OH invitation to address a joint session of Congress in January, without the president blessing, there has been a total break. Even before, Obama was trying to interfere in Israel’s election to makes his rids himself of Netanyahu as Israel’s prime minister. Netanyahu, who views Iran as Israel’s biggest threat, intends to criticize the ongoing negotiations between the P5+1 nation with Iran about their nuclear weapons program, calling for a deal that only rids Iran of all its nuclear capabilities including all their centrifuges. A framework about a potential deal is supposed to be reached by the end of March, but now the U.S. says that they might “walk away from Iran talks.”
The once close relationship between the two countries is slowly descending into a cold war. This past week, on Tuesday, Feb. 18 White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest indicated that the U.S. is withholding key details about the Iran negotiations from Israel, accusing them revealing secrets and distorting the facts for political gain. Earnest stated, “The United States is not going to be in a position of negotiating this agreement in public, particularly when we see that there is a continued practice of cherry-picking specific pieces of information and using them out of context to distort the negotiating position of the United States.”
Meanwhile, Netanyahu responded on Thursday, Feb. 19 saying he knows everything about Iran deal, saying, “What is there to hide?” Continuing, he pointed out “We know that Tehran knows the details of the talks. Now I tell you that Israel also knows the details of the proposed agreement. I think this is a bad agreement that is dangerous for the state of Israel, and not only for it.” An IAEA (International Atomic Energy Agency) report released on Friday, Feb. 20 on Iran’s nuclear program claims Iran is not being honest about the extent of their program.
Congressional Democrats are mostly standing by President Obama and nearly 40 are boycotting the address. Neither Biden nor Kerry are attending, with Biden set for a trip to Latin America about immigration. Kerry is also set to be out of the country, while Obama is not meeting with Netanyahu as well, using the diplomatic excuse, that it is too close to the Israel’s elections that he might be interfering in the outcome should he meet with Netanyahu and would he same with any American ally in the same position.
On Thursday, 28 Congressional Democrats wrote a letter to Boehner requesting that he postpone Netanyahu’s address, slinging accusations at the speaker, and writing, “It appears that you are using a foreign leader as a political tool against the President.” They also accused Boehner and the Republicans of trying to pass new sanctions against Iran against the president’s wishes, stating, “This appears to be an attempt to promote new sanctions legislation against Iran that could undermine critical negotiations.” Boehner’s spokesman Michael Steel responded, “Support for the State of Israel in Congress has always been bipartisan, and it should remain so.”
Bonnie K. Goodman is the Editor of the Academic Buzz Network, a series of political, academic & education blogs which includes History Musings: History, News & Politics. She has a BA in History & Art History & a Masters in Library and Information Studies, both from McGill University, and has done graduate work in Jewish history at Concordia University as part of the MA in Judaic Studies program. She covers US, Canadian & Israeli politics, with a particular focus on the Obama presidency, Congress, domestic policy, and elections.