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Obama Writes That As “Defender Of Jews,” Netanyahu Justified Almost Anything

Allan C. Brownfeld, Editor
Special Interest Report
December 2020

Former President Barack Obama, in a new memoir, details what The Times Of  
Israel (Nov. 13, 2020) calls “fresh details of his often tense relationship  
with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and AIPAC and complains that any  
criticism of Jerusalem makes one suspect of anti-Israel or even anti-Semitic  
In his memoir, Obama criticizes both Netanyahu and AIPAC for working to  
rally domestic opposition to his policies concerning Israel as well as his  
efforts to halt Iran’s nuclear program. In the book, “A Promised Land,”  
Obama describes Netanyahu as “smart, canny, tough and a gifted communicator”  
who used his knowledge of American politics and the media to resist  
administration policies with which he disagreed.  
He writes: “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.” He recalls being told by Rahm Emanuel, his first  
chief of staff as he took office, “You don’t get progress on peace when the  
American president and the Israeli prime minister come from different  
political backgrounds.”  
Regarding AIPAC, Obama charges that its positions moved to the right in  
accordance with the political shift in Israel, “even when Israel took  
actions that were contrary to U.S. policy.” He laments that politicians who  
“criticized Israel policy too loudly risked being tagged as ‘anti-Israel’  
(and possibly ‘anti-Semitic) and were confronted with a well-funded opponent  
in the next election.”  
Obama says that he was the subject of a “whisper campaign” that sought to  
portray him as “insufficiently supportive —-or even hostile toward—-Israel”  
during the 2008 presidential race. He recalls that, “On Election Day, I’d  
end up getting more than 70 per cent of the Jewish vote, but as far as many  
AIPAC board members were concerned, I remained suspect, a man of divided  
loyalties., someone whose support for Israel, as one of campaign manager  
David Axelrod’s friends colorfully put it, wasn’t ‘felt in his kishkes,’  
‘guts’ in Yiddish.”  
When it comes to the question of establishing a Palestinian state, he notes  
that many members of Congress were reticent to publicly address this  
question, out of concern that they would lose support from AIPAC supporters  
or donors. He also addresses his push for Israel to freeze settlement  
construction as part of his efforts to facilitate Israeli-Palestinian peace  
talks. Negotiations resumed briefly at the end of the ten-month freeze,  
which began in 2010, but was aborted and the moratorium was not extended.  
Obama says it was “reasonable” to ask Israel to take such a step “as it was  
the stronger party.” However, “as expected, Netanyahu’s reaction was sharply  
negative.” During this time, he says, he came under pressure from  
Netanyahu’s American allies. He writes that, “The White House phones started  
ringing off the hook with supporters and Jewish leaders wondering why we  
were picking on Israel.”  
Netanyahu, writes Obama, was guilty of “an orchestrated push” against his  
administration which, he says, underscored that normal policy differences  
with an Israeli prime minister exacted a domestic political cost. **

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© 2010 The American Council For Judaism.