US-Israel Tension Now Visible: US Envoy to UN skips Netanyahu speech to have lunch
September 29, 2012 (TSR) – Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu addressed the United Nations General Assembly this week, but don’t ask around Washington if you want to hear the highlights: the US ambassador to the UN, Susan Rice, skipped the Thursday afternoon speech.
Not only did Rice walk out of the General Assembly before Prime Minister Netanyahu gave a speech amid worsening tensions between the US and Israel, but her behavior fell perfectly in line with the attitude of the rest of the Obama administration as of late. US President Barack Obama had earlier refused a private meeting with the prime minister, and although he asked Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to listen in on Thursday’s address on behalf of the White House, neither Mrs. Clinton nor Ambassador Rice was in attendance.
In an op-ed published by Fox News this week, reporter Anne Bayefsky writes that Rice “is said to have had more important things to do” than attend Netanyahu’s address.
On-the-air, Fox commentator Greta Van Susteren explained exactly what urgent matters kept the United States’ ambassador from attending.
“Today, our UN ambassador, Susan Rice, did not attend the speech by the prime minister because the speeches went long today. Instead she elected to go to a lunch with foreign ministers, and so she wasn’t present,” Van Susteren explained.
“We had our envoy there and we had our US ambassador to Israel there, but for some reason it would appear to me that in light of the problems we’ve had showing our closeness with this country — she should have been there,” she added.
John Bolton, the United States’ ambassador to the UN under former President George W Bush, said he was shocked by Rice’s behavior as well, but isn’t surprised entirely when he considers it with the rest of the Obama administration’s actions during the last three-and-a-half years.
“From the Obama administration point of view, I would have thought she would have attended both the Netanyahu speech and Mahmoud Abbas of the Palestinian Authority,” Bolton told Van Susteren. “Instead she went to have lunch with Hillary Clinton and the foreign ministers of the five permanent members of the Security Council.”
“Ultimately that’s Hillary Clinton’s call,” Bolton said. If he was still representing the United States, however, he would have probably acted otherwise.
“As I say, I would have recommended being in the hall to have a higher ranking official there,” Bolton quipped. Under this administration, however, he doesn’t necessarily expect anything more.
Under US President Barack Obama, said Bolton, the United States has shown “Utter disdain for both Prime Minister Netanyahu and the state of Israel.”
“It’s simply one more brick in the wall of the case that the president is perfectly prepared to isolate Israel and that he does not hold the US/Israel relationship in the same high regard as every president going back to Harry Truman,” Bolton added, referring to the commander-in-chief who oversaw America from 1945 until 1953.
Earlier in the month, Israeli authorities asked the White House for a personal sit-down with President Obama during Prime Minister Netanyahu’s visit to the United States. The Obama administration declined, citing scheduling conflicts. The president later appeared on “The View” television program with his wife.
On Thursday, White House Press Secretary Jay Carney confirmed that President Obama made plans to speak with Prime Minister Netanyahu over the phone this week. Earlier in the month, they held an hour-long telephone conversation as “part of their ongoing consultations,” the White House said, and on Friday administration spokespeople confirmed that the two are in “full agreement” on preventing Iran from getting nuclear weapon following their latest talk.
Obama promises to block Netanyahu’s ‘noise’
US President Barack Obama said during a televised interview that aired this weekend that he will block out “any noise” from Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu urging America to intervene in an Iranian nuclear program.
Speaking to 60 Minutes, President Obama acknowledged that the United States does indeed maintain friendly relations with Israel, but suggested that he would not necessarily intervene in that country’s issues if it wasn’t the best course of action for the American people. The interview was conducted by Steve Kroft and carried by CBS Sunday evening.
Responding to a question about how much pressure the United States receives from Prime Minister Netanyahu to use military force in Iran to thwart a rumored nuclear warhead procurement plan, President Obama said he understands Israel’s concerns but does not feel pressured to play by their rules.
“I have conversations with Prime Minister Netanyahu all the time. And I understand and share Prime Minister Netanyahu’s insistence that Iran should not obtain a nuclear weapon, because it would threaten us, it would threaten Israel, and it would threaten the world and kick off a nuclear arms race,” President Obama explained.
In response to his answer, Mr. Kraft followed through and asked the president, “You’re saying, you don’t feel any pressure from Prime Minister Netanyahu in the middle of a campaign to try and get you to change your policy and draw a line in the sand? “You don’t feel any pressure?”
“When it comes to our national security decisions — any pressure that I feel is simply to do what’s right for the American people. And I am going to block out—any noise that’s out there,” President Obama said. “Now I feel an obligation, not pressure but obligation, to make sure that we’re in close consultation with the Israelis — on these issues. Because it affects them deeply. They’re one of our closest allies in the region. And we’ve got an Iranian regime that has said horrible things that directly threaten Israel’s existence.”
Despite the long-lasting relationship between the US and Israel, the two allies have failed to see eye-to-eye as of late on the Iranian issue, at least as far as to what degree intervention is warranted. The United States has already imposed serious trade sanctions on Iran and is far from on pleasant terms with them otherwise, but Prime Minister Netanyahu and other Israeli officials have asked for President Obama to take more serious action, perhaps even putting boots on the ground.
“The world tells Israel ‘wait, there’s still time’. And I say, ‘Wait for what? Wait until when?’” Netanyahu said earlier this month. “Those in the international community who refuse to put red lines before Iran don’t have a moral right to place a red light before Israel.” Days after that remark was made, Israel asked the White House if a meeting could be arranged between the two nation’s leaders during Mr. Netanyahu’s visit to the United Nations in New York City this week, but the Obama administration said such a sit-down wouldn’t be possible.
Mitt Romney, the former Massachusetts governor that will challenge President Obama in the November elections, told 60 Minute’s that the White House’s response was a “mistake that sends a message throughout the Middle East that somehow we distance ourselves from our friends.”