Now that President Obama has been replaced by Donald Trump, those who served in the Israeli government can start to unburden themselves about the anti-Israel administration that left office last week. The first to speak out was Dr. Dore Gold, former Israeli ambassador to the United Nations, former director-general of the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs and adviser to Prime Ministers Ariel Sharon and Benjamin Netanyahu.
On Friday, the Israeli newspaper Makor Rishon published an interview with Gold in which he spoke about the incredible arrogance of President Obama. According to Gold, President Obama thought he knew more about what Israel and the Palestinians needed than what Israel and the Palestinians knew themselves.
The interview started with Gold relating a story from the funeral of Shimon Peres last April. Netanyahu was greeting each world leader who came to the funeral individually as they were leaving Israel, shaking their hands and exchanging a few niceties.
Suddenly there was a phone call from Air Force One, which was carrying President Obama, former President Bill Clinton, and Secretary of State John Kerry. Yoav Horowitz, Netanyahu’s chief of staff, answered the phone because the prime minister was seeing the other leaders off.
“Tell your boss that if he wants a funeral like Peres’ he should begin to move, to go forward,” the American voice on the other end said. Horowitz passed on the message immediately. “Tell him [Obama],” Netanyahu responded, “that I give up the honor, because I have no intention of participating in the funeral of my country.”
What Obama was trying to say to Netanyahu, in his crass manner, was that if the prime minister would “move forward” and accept Obama’s vision of peace, then he would be world-famous, admired and have a splendid funeral like Peres with dozens of world leaders coming to pay tribute.
According to Gold that story encapsulates the relationship between Obama and Netanyahu over the past eight years. Gold added that he knows other stories about the interaction between the two, and he might tell them (but not for a few more years).
Gold was present during the entire history of the Netanyahu/Obama relationship. He attended the first meeting between then-Senator Obama and then-opposition leader Netanyahu before either had been voted into office. “Everyone was so polite,” Gold said. “Differences emerge only when you come to power.”
Until recently Gold was director of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in a government where the prime minister also held the Foreign Ministry portfolio (so Gold was very involved with all foreign relations decisions). He stated that he is no longer surprised by stories such as the one he related about Peres’ funeral.
Now that the Obama administration finished its term, Gold accuses it of arrogance: “They developed an attitude that no matter what the Israeli Government says and no matter what the Arabs say, they know better what the needs of both sides.”
That was the sharpest statement that Gold was ready to express, adding, “But even now I refuse to stick all these definitions — anti-Semite, pro-Muslim, threw Israel under the bus — on Obama. By no means. Not at all.” Gold wasn’t saying those labels aren’t true but he is a career diplomat who rarely uses those terms. The rest of us are free to tell it as it really is without the diplomatic restrictions.
Gold went into more detail about the arrogance of the administration and how it ignored decades of international protocol. Another example was a statement made by National Security Adviser Susan Rice, that “even if Israel and the Palestinians reach an agreement, it is possible that the United States would oppose it” because he would not do justice to the Palestinians.
In other words, Gold was suggesting that Obama just didn’t want peace, he wanted peace his way.
The outgoing Obama administration was hostile to Israel’s positions, especially the settlements. According to Gold, the settlements were a bigger issue to Obama than to the Palestinians.
“The issue of settlements has become an obsession,” says Gold. “There are many indications that the Palestinians saw it was not a big nuisance or constraint [that] prevents negotiations. But in the eyes of Washington, for some reason, it is becoming the central issue.” As proof Gold mentioned Abu Mazen’s statement, that in 2011 he said that “Americans put me on the tree [when they required the construction freeze] and then took away the ladder.”
The settlement attitude hit Gold and Israel hard immediately after the second meeting of Netanyahu and Obama, at which point they were leaders of their countries. In this meeting, Obama smashed three conventions that until then characterized the relationship between the United States and Israel, according to Gold.
The first was the prior coordination of meetings, which is an accepted fact worldwide. The second was American recognition, at least partially, the rights of Israel in Jerusalem. And the third says that any new government, in Israel or America, is subject to the commitments of its predecessor.
At that point Gold realized that things under Obama were going to be difficult, because they had trusted that the U.S. government would honor agreements form one administration to another. But according to Gold, the Obama administration said, “we have a different position.”
In the American press Obama and his Secretary of State Hillary Clinton claimed the agreement never existed. But Elliot Abrams, who negotiated the agreement for the Bush administration with then prime minister Ariel Sharon, said that Obama’s contention that there was no previous agreement was “an outright lie.”
It is likely that Gold will say more over time for the historical record, and there are rumors that former Ambassador to U.S. Michael Oren has some spicy vignettes of Obama’s insulting behavior toward Netanyahu that he didn’t cover in his book, “Ally: My Journey Across the American-Israeli Divide.”
If that information becomes available, you will be able to find it here at The Jewish Star.