Elliott Abrams

Pressure Points

Abrams gives his take on U.S. foreign policy, with special focus on the Middle East and democracy and human rights issues.

Print Print Cite Cite
Style: MLA APA Chicago Close


Obama Buries the Hatchet–in Netanyahu’s Head

by Elliott Abrams
March 18, 2015


It was obvious that after Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s clear election victory, the Obama administration and the president himself would try to bury the hatchet. After all, Obama and Netanyahu must survive the next 22 months together as heads of government.

But that was wrong. Today, Netanyahu received congratulatory calls from many world leaders including the Canadian and British prime ministers. But not Obama. The excuse offered, that Netanyahu’s victory is not yet official, is embarrassing; Obama apparently called Netanyahu after his last election victory without such a wait for official cover. Moreover, Obama’s standards here are non-existent: he called Vladimir Putin one day after his last “election victory.” So dictators get calls, winners of of free elections don’t?

If that isn’t enough consider this. On Air Force One today, White House press secretary Josh Earnest went out of his way to attack Netanyahu. Here’s the relevant part:

There’s one other thing that I anticipated might come up that I just did want to mention as it relates to the Israeli elections. Specifically, there has been a lot of coverage in the media about some of the rhetoric that emerged yesterday that was propagated by the Likud Party to encourage turnout of their supporters that sought to, frankly, marginalize Arab-Israeli citizens. The United States and this administration is deeply concerned by divisive rhetoric that seeks to marginalize Arab-Israeli citizens.

We see here that the press gaggle on AF1 didn’t work: no reporter asked Earnest about this subject. So at the end of the questioning he simply went out of his way to criticize a statement Netanyahu had made about getting out Likud voters,  to counteract what he said were massive left-wing efforts to get out the left-wing Jewish and Arab vote. The issue isn’t whether that Netanyahu statement was awful or admirable, but the conduct of the White House.

The leader of a close ally wins a democratic election. President Obama takes the occasion to hit him again.

This sequence reminds us again that Obama took office before Netanyahu did, so the extreme hostility to him shown from the day he took office could not have been caused by anything he did. It was ideological and personal, and the then White House chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel has a lot to answer for here. The Obama administration never gave Netanyahu a chance, opposing and criticizing him from his first day in power. And of course, his opposition to what is clearly now Obama’s sole major foreign policy goal, a rapprochement with Iran, made things tougher.

I genuinely thought this would now change, but I was not reading this administration right. Those who favor close and cooperative relations between Israel and the United States are in for a rocky 22 months.

Post a Comment 17 Comments

  • Posted by Colin

    So, you are Obama – you hate Netanyahu, and everyone knows it. In spite of your best efforts, he gets re-elected – what do you do? Precisely because of this history, now more than would normally be the case, you have to be the first leader to congratulate him – this shows you as magnanimous, a statesman, in control. The only other option is to hide in the back of the crowd, looking small, contemptible, petty. It reminds everyone of your defeat – so, why would he choose that option? Does no body advise him? Is he really that pathetic??

  • Posted by A.T. Halmay

    Bully for Bibi. He finally came to his senses, that the idea of a two state solution is kaka. Now, hopefully, he will learn from el-Sisi how to deal with Obama. If Obama finally gets around to call, DON’T PICK UP THE PHONE.

  • Posted by francesco d'allessandro

    This administration has been planting destabilizing seeds not only against Prime Minister Netanyahu but more precisely toward the State of Israel. Since the onset of the 44th US presidential tenure, direct barbs and actions have been thrown at our erstwhile true ally in the Middle East. Why? One can only guess but they will not stop. These politicized ovules will germinate within time… and chances are they will serve to weaken Israel. Unless there is a major ideological change within certain political leaders in the US, the rest of the countries that are allied to the democratic ideal, will follow suit and allow Israel to be served in a platter to those whose sole purpose is to destroy the land of Abraham.

  • Posted by John Kater

    Obama’s comment amounts to meddling in the domestic affairs of a sovreign foreign nation: it is outrageous and out of order.

  • Posted by David

    I did not vote for Obama because I didn’t know anything about him. I will bet that the people who did vote for him didn’t know anything about him either.
    And this is the result. A president who stated after the recent state of the union address that “He was going to continue to do what he was elected to do six years ago”. ….. “he will continue to do what he thinks is best for the United States of America”.
    Right from his own mouth he is admitting that he is doing what he feels like. Did any of you who voted for him realise this astounding fact?
    Aren’t our elected officials supposed to carry out the will of the people? I guess he thinks he is a dictator? God Bless Israel and the USA.!

  • Posted by david

    When it comes to Obama……..
    No body in our own goverment will stand up to him.
    He must have dirt on everyone in Washington via the NSA.
    That is probably why he gets away with all this.
    None of our elected officials have the pluck or the courage to just say no to Obama and his plans.
    Their own reputations are more important than the future of this country.
    I wonder what the NSA has on Obama?

  • Posted by Barry Meislin

    “The leader of a close ally….”

    Shouldn’t we bury this delusion already?

    The Obama administration has shown that it is anything but a close ally of the Jewish state—something that should already have been made clear by the administration’s response to the Mavi Marmara Gaza blockade incident in 2010, its demand that Israel freeze settlements without any consultation, and many other “interactions” up to the latest—altogether expected—vendetta.

    Obama is now unbound and can allow his animus towards the Jewish state flow freely. I wouldn’t describe the next 22 months as “rocky”, though. More like catastrophic, as he deviously crafts an “accord” with his new friends, the mullahs of Iran. “Going that extra mile for peace”, he will triumphantly flaunt it as; though it should really be called, “giving up the store, intentionally, while hiding behind the figleaf of ‘Peace in our Time'”.

    The only question remaining is, how much damage, pain, death and destruction will the Obama administration cause? Not only for Israel but for other states in the region. And for America itself.

    Which destruction will be rationalized as, “We firmly and unquestionably have the world’s, and America’s, best interests at heart”, etc, ad nauseum”. Yes, ObamaCare for the Middle East and the world!

    File under: “And the city of Shushan was perplexed”…

  • Posted by Jassem Othman

    It is great that Prime Minister Netanyahu has been re-elected. Mr. Netanyahu’s victory is a strong slap in the face of President Obama because Mr. Netanyahu remains the harshest thorn in Obama’s side.

    The policies of Obama’s regime have brought the Great America to the brink of ruin and disaster, especially on the economic and military level. On foreign policy, they tried to damage the deep and strong trust between America and its allies, in particular the most important strategic and vital allies in the region “Israelis and Saudis.” It’s time to get these socialist accomplices out of the White House!

  • Posted by Jim Austin

    The dysfunctional Congress which has found it impossible to “do the peoples business” (which is their mandate when elected) has now expanded its destructive potential by inserted itself into the functions of the State Department. The invitation issued by Congress for a foreign diplomat to address a joint session of Congress had no precident ESPECIALLY when his solitary objective is to preciptate a war in that region in which ,having the automatic support of those Aerican legislators holding dual Israeli and US citizenships (making Congress, in effect, Kinessett West)- and of course dual citizenships implies diovided loyalty and there is no doubt where that “oyalty” will be dempnstrated as demamded by Israel. Netanyahu’s single goal it to precipitate a war which will involve the US with our Congress (“Kinessett West”) i within hours authorozing Israel to go wher they want and take what they want h. The result will be disaster in the middle east and given “BiBI;s (such a cutsey name) statement that “a Palestinian state will never happen on my watch.”

    Like it or not, Israel under that man is doing to the Palestinians what the Germans did to the Poles

    An as a bonus to the rest of the world – his “no two-stste solution on my watch” will casue a worldwide ISIS eruption of unseen proportions. They have nothing to hold them back – in fact Netanhoohoo;s dictates supports what they have been claiming all alon g – that Israel’s sole ob jective us the complete destruction of Pallestine ans the Palestinians themselves

    Compared to, Netanyahoo; Putin is s Pope Putin is pragmatic and predictable. The former is a terrorist iin a shirt , tie, and a Mafian smirk and the most dangerous man alive when the hope for peace is on the table,He wikll continue to pillage their meagre lands, steal their homes and property and leave them with nothing and no where to go. AGAIN – as Germany did in Poland and Checkoslovokia

    OH, forgot – and will continue to receove his Congressional stipends of 9-10 B(US) / year


  • Posted by David Barrett

    Bibi did not marginalise the arab constituency . He was making comment on their ability to get out and vote , and if they can, so should his Likud supporters. Earnest is a misguided fool actng on the orders of a Chief who is NOT Bibis best friend .Lets face it – it is now Bibis turn to wait for Obama to disappear – Lets see if Obama can do one thing right ie RELEASE POLLARD – that will go a long way to mending fences

  • Posted by miriam haviv

    There is one basic element that the administration and the left in general [including the Israeli left] does not understand;- Irael is not merely jest a land that you can give up un order to reach an agreement with the other party, ISRAEL IS A CONCEPT WHICH WAS BUILT OVER 3500 YEARS TND WHENEVER, WE THE ISRAELIS THINK THAT THE CONCEPT IS IN ENY DENGER WE STAND ON GUARD AND THE PRICE DOES NOT MATTER!!!!
    So Obama, the PA, the EU, the UN or any one who thinks that h has any right to muddle must take that into concideration!!!

  • Posted by Richard Clark

    Mr Abrams can expect a lot more repercussions from the events of the last two months. Netanyahu is going to be left to swing in the wind at the UN and the ICC. Military and financial cooperation with Israel will be scaled back. The scandals will become a Presidential election issue and local election issue. The Israel Lobby will be greatly weakened. There will be increasing military cooperation with Iran, and there will be no preemptive attack on Iran by the US or for that matter, Israel.

  • Posted by John

    The logic of this piece escapes me; so Natanyahu is so important that we should care if he received s phone call from President Obama? Please write something worthwhile.

  • Posted by david conley

    Dear Mr Abrams

    Your last paragraph shows how naive you were in thinking Obama had any real love for Israel. People naive like you, including my wife, caused America to be stuck with him for 8 years. She learned her lesson about 6 months into his presidency and allowed me to scrap the obama bumper stickers off her car. I was ashamed to ride in the car while they were on the car. If people had checked into his background and not been fooled by his ‘hope and change’, The US and Israel would not be in this messy relationship.

  • Posted by elio

    Yes the election process was indeed democratic and the results are clear. However, the bipartisan support is to be expressed for the State of Israel and not necessarily for Nataniau. We all witnessed a Likud mediatic excercise, whereby if you support or vote for the Labour Party you are endagering the security of State, tantamount to a betrayal. The slogans proved to be very efficient and got results. Yet, since the institution of the State of Israel there was never any governing party/coaltion that was not fully and totally committed to the security of the State or to strengthtening the alliance with our closest friends.

  • Posted by neville craig

    As someone who has lived for over 20 years in both Ireland and East Mediterranean countries, I long ago concluded that Netanyahu had much in common with Paisley: outsized ego; utter assurance; staying elected as priority; give ‘not an inch’. Paisley in the end did a an absolute about-turn, to secure his place as a great statesman, and I imagine Netanyahu may eventually take a ‘road to Damascus’.

    One distinguishing feature is that Paisley was ‘Americanised’ at the Bob Jones University, that great centre of academic rigour, where he obtained an ego-boosting ‘doctorate’, after three months work.

  • Posted by Emile Tubiana

    Dear Mr. Abrahams, I would not waste my time with our administration’s stupidity and pettiness. I am ashamed to have a president like this. He thinks he learned it all. He has no idea about life. He is not at Netanyahu’s level. He does not know what Netanyahu and his brother did to save lives. Knowing Netanyahu’s achievements, I have more respect for him than for our president.

Post a Comment

CFR seeks to foster civil and informed discussion of foreign policy issues. Opinions expressed on CFR blogs are solely those of the author or commenter, not of CFR, which takes no institutional positions. All comments must abide by CFR's guidelines and will be moderated prior to posting.

* Required