First Published: 2013-01-16

 

Netanyahu to Obama: Only Israel knows its own best interests

 

Remarks of Netanyahu come in response to article by columnist Jeffrey Goldberg in which he quotes Obama as saying repeatedly: ‘Israel doesn't know what its own best interests are.’

 

Middle East Online

Bad blood between key allies?

JERUSALEM - Only the people of Israel can decide who will represent their best interests, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Wednesday in remarks directed at US President Barack Obama a week before a general election.

"I think everyone knows that the citizens of Israel are the only ones who can decide who will faithfully represent the vital interests of the state," he said.

His remarks came in response to an article by prominent Bloomberg columnist Jeffrey Goldberg in which he quoted Obama as saying repeatedly: "Israel doesn't know what its own best interests are."

Obama, he wrote, appeared to see Netanyahu as a "political coward" vis-a-vis the peace process with the Palestinians who was completely "captive to the settler lobby," and whose ongoing settlement activity was moving Israel "down a path toward near total isolation."

Senior figures from Netanyahu's ruling rightwing Likud party reacted furiously, accusing the US leader of "gross interference" in the upcoming election, which is widely expected to see Israelis reelect their hawkish prime minister.

"Over the last four years, we have faced tremendous pressure and we will continue to stand up for the vital interests of Israel and its security," Netanyahu told reporters on a tour of an army base near Gaza, his remarks broadcast on public radio.

Until now, there had been no official response to the article, which on Wednesday dominated the headlines in the newspapers as well as on Israel's main television and radio stations.

"This is gross interference by the US president in the elections in Israel," senior Likud officials told Israel HaYom, while others told The Jerusalem Post he was "taking revenge" for the Israeli leader's overt support for Obama's rival during the presidential race in November.

But Danny Danon, number five on the Likud list, put a positive spin on Obama's "intervention," saying it would chalk up more votes for the premier.

"Any external intervention attempt only brings us more seats," he told Yediot Aharonot.

Opposition figures leapt at the chance to attack Netanyahu.

"Anyone who still thinks things will be okay woke up this morning to a very clear and sharp statement by the US president, who says that Israel's prime minister is leading the state of Israel into severe isolation," said ex-foreign minister Tzipi Livni, head of the centrist HaTnuah faction.

In the article, Goldberg wrote that Obama was unsurprised when Israel announced plans to build in E1, a highly sensitive area of West Bank land near Jerusalem, suggesting it was "what he has come to expect" from Netanyahu's "self-defeating policies."

Although the US would not cut off its aid to Israel, Obama was not likely to "waste his time on Mideast peace" and Israel could soon notice a "significant shift" on the diplomatic front, he wrote.

"It is in terms of American diplomatic protection -- among the Europeans and especially at the UN -- that Israel may one day soon notice a significant shift," he said, suggesting the US may fail to whip up votes against perceived anti-Israel resolutions, and could even itself abstain.

In an editorial, the left-leaning Haaretz newspaper said the piece provided serious food for thought for voters just six days before the election.

These statements "are food for thought, served up to Israeli citizens before they retreat into their shell of apathy and elect a right-wing government comprised of Likud, (the secular nationalist) Yisrael Beitenu, (the hardline religious) Jewish Home and the ultra-Orthodox parties, which will lead the country into a confrontation with Obama and the rest of the world."

 

US-backed Kurdish-Arab alliance advances in IS-held Tabqa

US drone strike kills 5 Qaeda suspects in Yemen

Libya seizes two foreign oil tankers after gunbattle at sea

Turkish opposition down but not out

Europe’s 2017 elections affecting lives of Arabs, Muslims

Iran opens refinery to become petrol self-sufficient

Kuwaiti resigns from FIFA council to fight bribery claim

Waterway lifeline for civilians fleeing Tabqa

New Jordan-Syria spat revives simmering tensions

Trump’s U-turn on Syria checks Iranian ambitions

Hezbollah defiance on Israel border undermines Lebanon Army

Pope lifts spirits of Egypt's persecuted Christians

UN eyes new Western Sahara talks after Polisario pullback

Erdogan says Turkey, US can turn Raqa into 'graveyard'

Hamas to amend controversial charter

Turkish authorities block access to Wikipedia

Pope Francis leads mass in Egypt

President of European rights group censured for Assad meeting

Pope Francis flies to Egypt as 'pilgrim of peace'

Palestinians protest to support prisoners on hunger strike

Turkish army, Syrian Kurdish militia in new clashes

Erdogan to rejoin Turkey ruling party next week

Germany urges EU not to break off Turkey accession talks

OPCW says chemical weapons allegedly used 45 times in Syria

Netanyahu slams German foreign minster as 'insensitive'

UK warns of ‘increased level of terrorist activity’

Erdogan hopes for 'new page' with US under Trump

UN Security Council calls for Polisario pullback from Guerguerat

UN envoy to Libya to visit Sudan for peace talks

Tunisian PM booed out of town hall meet

Russian spy ship sinks off Turkish coast

London police arrest ‘terror act’ knifeman by parliament

Palestinians strike in support of protesting prisoners

Two Saudi soldiers killed in rocket attack near Yemen border

German soldier plots attack under refugee disguise

Iraq forces retake town of Hatra from IS

Syria accuses Israel of strike near Damascus airport

10 dead after strikes on rebel-held hospitals in Syria

Turkey’s AKP to hold special congress readmitting Erdogan

EU reviews Libya request for naval equipment

Jail terms over death of Moroccan fishmonger

UN appoints Syrian Olympic swimmer as ambassador

Bahraini activist on hunger strike behind bars

Calls on Saudi social media for jobless protest

Tunisian coastguards no match for high-speed smugglers