New York Times: Obama’s Problems with Netanyahu are Getting Worse

President Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in 2013. (Photo: Charles Dharapak, AP)
President Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in 2013.
(Photo: Charles Dharapak, AP)

The White House is stepping up its antagonism toward Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu despite his victory in this week’s elections, signaling that it is in no rush to repair a historic rift between the United States and Israel.

The sharpened tone indicates that the Obama administration may be re-evaluating its relationship with its closest ally in the Middle East, having lost patience with Mr. Netanyahu in the closing days of an election campaign in which he spotlighted deep disagreements with President Obama over a Palestinian state and a nuclear deal with Iran.

“You reach a tipping point,” said Daniel C. Kurtzer, a former American ambassador to Israel and Egypt. “It’s the culmination of six and a half years of frustration, including some direct hits at the president’s prestige and the office of the presidency.”

The aggressiveness underlines a calculation by Mr. Obama that an international accord with Iran to rein in its nuclear program is within reach despite Mr. Netanyahu’s adamant opposition, and that there is little value in being more conciliatory toward him.

And, domestically, the administration is risking the alienation of a core Democratic constituency of Jewish voters, in part banking on the fact that many of them also are upset with Mr. Netanyahu.

“In a way, the administration has already won,” said Aaron David Miller, a former Middle East adviser to Democratic and Republican administrations. “If you get agreement by the end of March, it will be historic in nature, it will have demonstrated that the administration is prepared to willfully stand up to Republican opposition in Congress and to deal with members of its own party who have doubts, and has withstood Israeli pressure.”

In a congratulatory call to Mr. Netanyahu on Thursday that Mr. Obama waited two days to place, the president chided the prime minister for his pre-election declaration that no Palestinian state would be established on his watch.

Although Mr. Netanyahu has since tried to backtrack on those comments, Mr. Obama said that they had nonetheless forced his administration to reassess certain aspects of its policy toward Israel, according to a White House official who offered details of the call only on the condition of anonymity.

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The New York Times

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