President Obama. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin) US President Obama. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)
President Obama

Obama and Netanyahu.

Netanyahu and Obama at the While House in October. (Avi Ohayon/Flash90))

Is Obama going to punish Israel for democratically electing Netanyahu? Media reports indicate this may be the case.

US President Barack Obama and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu have had a tense relationship over the years and differences of opinion on many issues. Their relationship apparently reached a new low when Netanyahu was invited to address a special session of Congress in March against Obama’s explicit wishes, urging against a dangerous deal with Iran.

The American media has been reporting, since the announcement of this week’s national elections results, that the Obama administration was preparing several diplomatic moves against Israel, seemingly in retaliation for Netanyahu’s victory.

Reports indicate that the US may change its stand, which opposed unilateral Palestinian steps toward statehood taken at the UN Security Council (UNSC) versus a negotiated settlement, and may now support a Palestinian motion to establish a state on the pre-1967 borders.

Reports further show that the US may stop blocking anti-Israel resolutions at the UN. Steven Simon, a former National Security Council official under Obama, told CNN that given the strain with Netanyahu, the White House may now consider trimming down the American diplomatic defense of Israel at the UN.

The State Department announced that the Obama administration will re-examine US Middle East foreign policy in light of Netanyahu’s elections-campaign declaration that a Palestinian state will not be established under his leadership.

“We are signaling that if the Israeli government’s position is no longer to pursue a Palestinian state, we’re going to have to broaden the spectrum of options we pursue going forward,” a senior administration official is quoted as saying by Politico magazine. “The positions taken by the prime minister in the last days of the campaign have raised very significant substantive questions that go far beyond just optics.”

A “senior” Obama administration official who spoke to The New York Times on condition of anonymity said that one outcome could be a change in how the relationship between Israel and America is managed. Discourse between the two countries, for instance, would no longer be held between the heads of state directly but would be downgraded to lower-level representatives. Secretary of State John Kerry and Pentagon officials who handle the close military alliance with Israel would act as conduits between Obama and Netanyahu.

US Leaders Show Support for Netanyahu

PM Netanyahu and US Speaker of the House John Boehner during a press conference in 2011. (Photo: Flickr)

PM Netanyahu and US Speaker of the House John Boehner during a press conference in 2011. (Photo: Flickr)

Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), who criticized Netanyahu’s address to Congress, said in a statement Wednesday that she hopes that the leadership in both countries will make fixing the US-Israel relationship a priority, “regardless of political affiliation.”

A number of American leaders showed support for Netanyahu’s democratic re-election. Senator John McCain (R-AZ), a long standing supporter of Israel, welcomed the election news by tweeting, “Congrats to Bibi — the comeback kid!”

Presidential hopeful Jeb Bush tweeted: “Congratulations to Prime Minister Netanyahu on his re-election. He’s a true leader who will continue to keep Israel strong and secure.”

House speaker John Boehner, who invited Netanyahu to address Congress, tweeted: “Congratulations PM Netanyahu. Looking forward to continuing the strong relationship between Israel & the US.”

No Word Yet from the President

As of this writing, Obama has yet to call Netanyahu to congratulate him on winning the elections. While some media outlets are claiming that this is a slap in the face to Israel (and Netanyahu), and while it certainly is true that the US response has been glaringly cold, it is likely the White House is waiting to make the congratulatory call until President Reuven Rivlin officially appoints Netanyahu to form a coalition.

By: Aryeh Savir
Staff Writer, United with Israel