On Tuesday, President Obama was interviewed on Israeli TV Channel 2. The interview was aired shortly after news broke that one of Obama’s senior advisers had revealed that the president said to him:
I’m the closest thing to a Jew that has ever sat in this office.
David Axelrod, one of the key figures in Obama’s rise to the presidency and his first term in office, revealed the claim at the same time the president tried to reduce tensions with Israel over an impending nuclear deal with Iran.
Axelrod made the assertion during an interview with Israeli journalist Ilana Dayan of Channel 2 News, who also conducted the interview with Obama.
You can watch the interview here.
“You know, I think I am the closest thing to a Jew that has ever sat in this office,” the president said, according to Axelrod’s account. “For people to say that I am anti-Israel, or, even worse, anti-Semitic, it hurts.”
The revelation so close to the broadcast of the interview was clearly part of an attempt to reach out to the Israeli public after the signing of the framework agreement with Iran in Lausanne and after the administration harshly criticized Israeli Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu for statements about the two-state solution and Israeli Arabs.
Obama is one of the least popular U.S. presidents in the history of Israel and had an approval rating of only 17 percent of Israelis at the end of his first term in office.
The President obviously didn’t realize that some of his remarks during the interview will have reinforced the distrust in his leadership among the Israeli public.
In fact, Obama threatened Israel again when he said that the stalled Israeli-Palestinian peace process, along with the conditions Netanyahu has set for establishing a Palestinian state, have made it harder for the United States to continue defending Israel at the United Nations against European initiatives.
In saying this, Obama hinted that the U.S. may withhold its veto on the French initiative to transfer a decision on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict to the UN Security Council.
Ha’aretz reported that during the interview, Obama reflected on Netanyahu’s statement in the lead-up to Israel’s March election that a Palestinian state would not be established under his premiership, calling it “unequivocal.” Obama added that while Netanyahu subsequently suggested it could be possible to establish a Palestinian state, these later comments sounded like they were made in an effort to return to the status quo.
Netanyahu’s statements included “so many caveats, so many conditions, that it is not realistic to think that those conditions would be met anytime in the near future,” Obama said. “The danger here is that Israel as a whole loses credibility,” he added. “Already, the international community does not believe that Israel is serious about a two-state solution. The statement the prime minister made compounded this belief.”
The U.S. president also clarified remarks he made in an interview with journalist Jeffrey Goldberg, in which he said that Netanyahu’s anti-Arab remarks on Election Day would have consequences for America’s foreign policy. Netanyahu warned at the time against the effects of sponsored transportation (by a left-wing NGO) of Israeli Arabs to the polling stations. He warned that “Arab voters were coming out in droves” to cast their ballots. By saying this, he meant that they would vote for leftist parties; but he was immediately accused of racism.
“Let’s be very specific” regarding the “practical consequence that I referred to (in the Goldberg interview),” Obama said to Channel 2.
“Up until this point we have pushed away against European efforts for example, or other efforts. Because we’ve said, the only way this gets resolved is if the two parties worked together,” said Obama. “Well, here’s the challenge. If in fact, there’s no prospect of an actual peace process, if nobody believes there’s a peace process, then it becomes more difficult, to argue with those who are concerned about settlement construction, those who are concerned about the current situation, it’s more difficult for me to say to them, ‘Be patient. Wait, because we have a process here,’ because all they need to do is to point to the statements that have been made to say, ‘There is no process.’”
Obama clarified that he does not foresee a “framework agreement” between Israel and the Palestinians being possible in the current climate. “I don’t see the likelihood of us being able to emerge from Camp David or some other process and hold hands” in victory, he said.
From his remarks, it was clear that he once again put the blame on Israel for the failure of the negotiations with the Palestinian Authority.
The interview infuriated David Horovitz, the chief editor of the Times of Israel. Horovitz was chief editor of The Jerusalem Post before he started his own news site that is considered one of the best English-language news sites in Israel. He wrote a devastating critique of Obama’s outreach attempt and harshly criticized the President for giving the Palestinian leaders a free pass.
Reacting to Obama’s words that he understand the fears of the Israelis, Horovitz wrote:
Bur here’s the thing, Mr.President: you don’t (understand our fears). And your interview made that so unfortunately plain. You don’t fully understand our concerns and our fears — not as regards the ideologically and territorially rapacious regime in Tehran, driven by a perverted sense of religious imperative, and not as regards the Palestinian conflict.
You know full well that the Jewish state and its people want nothing more than to live in peace and tranquility alongside their neighbors. After all, as you yourself highlighted in the interview, the biggest applause you got when you spoke to Israeli students in Jerusalem came when you declared, “I know that the people of Israel care about those Palestinian children.”
What you so evidently haven’t fully internalized, however, is the extent to which we Israelis in the middle ground — the non-zealots, the ones who don’t want to annex the West Bank and subvert our democracy, and who don’t want a single binational entity between the river and the sea that puts an end to Jewish statehood — have been battered by recent history, and continue to be battered by the events unfolding all around us.
You seek to assure us that this deal with Iran is in our own best interests when we know that Iran — which almost daily calls for our destruction — will paint any agreement as a victory and a vindication, and will utilize that ostensible victory to step up its efforts to harm us, via terrorism and via its proxy armies in Lebanon and Gaza, while also continuing to do its utmost to cheat and bully its way to the bomb. We know that the deal will cement this bleakest of regimes in power in Tehran, and that it was your negotiators who blinked, who never forced the regime to choose between survival and its nuclear program, when the financial leverage was available to impose that choice.
You implore us, again and again, to give more thought to the plight of the Palestinians, to turn away from leadership — in the seemingly ever-present shape of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu — that peddles the politics of fear, and instead to choose the path of optimism and opportunity. But Israel just elected Netanyahu again, ignoring your entreaties, because the evidence of danger outweighed the evidence upon which to build hope. And here’s the irony, Mr. President: Your policies and your rhetoric haven’t helped…
Have you truly internalized the fact that five years ago, Israel was contemplating relinquishing the Golan Heights, the high strategic ground, for a peace deal with Bashar Assad. Where would that have left us now? Utterly vulnerable to the brutal spillover of anarchic violence across that border.
Have you really, truly internalized that Israel left southern Lebanon in 2000 and Gaza in 2005, to the applause and reassurance of the international community, only to see the vicious terrorist armies of Hezbollah and Hamas fill the respective vacuums? Have you really, honestly, utterly internalized that Hamas booted out the forces of the relatively moderate Mahmoud Abbas from Gaza in a matter of hours in 2007, and that there is every reason to believe that Hamas would seek to do the same in the West Bank were Israel to do as you wish and pull out? And Hamas in the West Bank would entirely paralyze this country. A single Hamas rocket that landed a mile from the airport last summer prompted two-thirds of foreign airlines to stop flying to Israel for a day and a half — including all the major US airlines. A single rocket. Hamas rule in the West Bank would close down our entire country…
You said you see your job as “to feed hope” and “not just feed fear.” Well, I implore you, Mr. President, don’t settle for blaming us for giving in to our concerns and our fears. Help reduce them. Help alleviate them. Give us the evidence upon which to rebuild our hope.”
In his long career as editor, journalist, and writer Horovitz, has never launched such a scathing attack on a foreign politician–and certainly not at the President of the United States.
His words reflects the thoughts of the overwhelming majority of the Israeli people who see the deteriorating security situation on Israel’s borders, the increasing delegitimization and demonization of the Jewish State in the international arena, and the total failure of contemporary American policy in the Middle East.
Therefore, it was no surprise that Obama was ridiculed by Israeli media for his statement that he is the closest thing to a Jew that has ever sat in office. Shortly after the interview, the Jewish Press published a cartoon that said it all:
This post originally appeared on Western Journalism – Equipping You With The Truth