The relationship between President Barack Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has been chilly for years. But Netanyahu’s decision to use a joint address to Congress to lobby against the nuclear deal with Iran at the invitation of Republican lawmakers, his seeming abandonment of a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian dispute, and the anti-Arab statements he made in the run-up to Israel’s March elections has turned them downright frigid.
Making little attempt to hide his disdain for Netanyahu, Obama has threatened to break with decades of American policy and give the United Nations a more active role in the peace process while senior White House officials have publicly rebuked the Israeli leader for using “divisive” language, including warning that Israeli-Arabs were flooding to polling stations. The prime minister tried to walk those comments back after he secured office, insisting he was still open to a Palestinian state if conditions were right, but Obama wasn’t having it.
Those hoping for a change of heart from the president should prepare to be disappointed (the opposite, of course, holds true for those who like Obama’s hardline stance towards Jerusalem). In an interview with the Israeli television station Channel 2, Obama doubled down on his criticism of Netanyahu and refused to take the prospect of greater U.N. involvement off the table, comments that are likely to make some in Israel very nervous.