Obama calls Netanyahu 'smart, canny, tough' in new tell-all book

US President Barack Obama (L) and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Former US President Barack Obama described his often complicated and constantly scrutinized relationship with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Promised Land, the first of two books Obama is writing about his time in office, which will be released on Tuesday, according to Jewish Insider.
Despite reports of constant fights, name-calling, leaks, and an altogether dysfunctional relationship, Obama writes that he saw Netanyahu as “smart, canny, tough and a gifted communicator.”
Obama, however, said that Netanyahu’s “vision of himself as the chief defender of the Jewish people against calamity allowed him to justify almost anything that would keep him in power.”
Obama gave readers an inside look at the political interactions of the Israeli government and his administration on the topic of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Obama writes that because he saw Israel as the “stronger party,” he felt it was “reasonable to ask Israel to take a ‘bigger first step’ and freeze construction in the West Bank,” according to Jewish Insider.
Obama says that Netanyahu’s response to this was “sharply negative” and that this was followed by pressure from Netanyahu’s allies in Washington. Obama saw Netanyahu’s actions as intended to remind him that “normal policy differences with an Israeli prime minister exacted a domestic political cost.”
Obama wrote that as he spent time with Netanyahu and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, he understood a warning issued to him by his chief of staff, former Chicago mayor Rahm Emanuel, who told him that “You don’t get progress on peace when the American president and the Israeli prime minister come from different political backgrounds.”
In the book, Obama mused on if things might have “played out differently” if the role played by any of the three men was filled by someone else.
Obama wrote of his experiences with the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, saying that AIPAC's, policy shifted to the right along with Israeli politics. Obama wrote that politicians who “criticized Israel policy too loudly risked being tagged as ‘anti-Israel’ (and possibly [antisemitic]) and [were] confronted with a well-funded opponent in the next election.”
“On Election Day, I’d end up getting more than 70 percent of the Jewish vote, but as far as many AIPAC board members were concerned, I remained suspect, a man of divided loyalties,” writes Obama. The former president went on to say that during his 2008 campaign he was the victim of a whisper campaign that showed him as “insufficiently supportive — or even hostile toward — Israel.”
The former president said that the “common story of exile and suffering” caused him to feel “fiercely protective” of the right of the Jewish people to have a state of their own, according to Jewish Insider. He also wrote about admiring Jewish voters who he said “tended to be more progressive,” and was fascinated by the influence of Jewish philosophers on the civil rights movement.


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