American journalist Jeffrey Goldberg, who is close to Barack Obama, claims that the US president told him that Benjamin Netanyahu displays “cowardice” on the Palestinian issue and is “leading Israel towards a policy of self-destruction”. Speaking behind closed doors, Obama apparently also told Goldberg that the Israeli Prime Minister is “leading Israel towards international isolation” in the wake of Netanyahu’s decision to build more settlement units in the E1 zone.
Israel’s Haaretz newspaper, which reported the conversation, revealed that during the past few weeks President Obama has been particularly sharp in his comments about Netanyahu, saying that he does not understand what Israeli interests are. The newspaper pointed out that Goldberg is one of Obama’s closest confidantes, suggesting that this was a controlled leak to get a point across to Netanyahu and Israel in an indirect way.
Haaretz compared Goldberg’s interview, which it considered to be based on guidance from the White House, and the statements made by journalist Peter Beinart, a few weeks ago, about the sense of disappointment and frustration which dominates the White House as a result of Netanyahu’s policies.
Goldberg described the moment when Obama was informed about Netanyahu’s latest decision to go ahead with settlement construction in the E1 area between Jerusalem and Maale Adumim. The president he did not get angry, claims Goldberg, but said that he “has become used to such behaviour from Netanyahu”, adding that he [Obama] “has become indifferent to what he sees as a self-destruct policy practiced by the Israeli Prime Minister.”
Within weeks of Palestine’s upgrade at the United Nations, Obama said, “Israel does not know its real interests, and with each new announcement for construction or expansion of settlements that Netanyahu makes, he leads his country to semi-complete international isolation.”
On the Palestinian issue, Obama told Goldberg that Netanyahu shows “cowardice” even though there is no existing leader who is a political threat to him. He is not, it is claimed, ready to walk the path to peace. The Israeli prime minister, it is alleged, is “a prisoner of the settlers’ lobby”.
Nevertheless, Goldberg points out that despite Obama’s frustration with Netanyahu, he does not intend to block military aid to Israel or to end his efforts to stop Iran’s nuclear programme.