Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is “in his own category” among US President Barack Obama’s deepest disappointments concerning Middle East leaders, journalist Jeffrey Goldberg wrote in a sprawling feature on Obama’s foreign policy doctrine published in the Atlantic on Thursday.
Goldberg, who is considered close to Obama, said that the US president has become disillusioned with Netanyahu throughout his presidency, because he sees him as capable of bringing about a two-state solution, but being too paralyzed by fear and political considerations to do so.
Obama has also become upset with Netanyahu in the past for “lecturing” him on the realities of the Middle East, according to the report.
Goldberg recounts a meeting between the two leaders in which Netanyahu was “lecturing” the US president on the Middle East and “behaving in a condescending fashion.”
Obama interrupted the prime minister, according to Goldberg, saying, “Bibi, you have to understand something. I’m the African American son of a single mother, and I live here, in this house. I live in the White House. I managed to get elected president of the United States. You think I don’t understand what you’re talking about, but I do.”
Despite his disagreements with Netanyahu, Obama expressed to Goldberg his appreciation for the Israeli people.
Discussing his belief that Americans fear terrorism more than they should given the small scope that the threat actually poses inside the US, Obama told Goldberg that he admires Israeli “resilience” in the face of constant terrorism.
Obama also discussed with Goldberg claims that he had been bluffing in the past when he said that he would have attacked Iran to keep it from getting a nuclear weapon. “I actually would have…If I saw them break out,” Obama told Goldberg.
He said that his disagreement with Netanyahu was over what constituted them “getting the bomb.” Netanyahu saw the Iranians being capable of building a bomb as enough to constitute an attack, while Obama said the “American interest” was to prevent them from possessing a bomb.
The Atlantic report came days after the latest perceived public spat between Netanyahu and Obama, in which the White House said that the prime minister had surprisingly cancelled a scheduled meeting with the US president next week. Israeli media reports had falsely suggested that the meeting was cancelled because Obama was going to be out of the country at the time of Netanyahu’s visit.
Netanyahu’s office later said that he had canceled the meeting because he did not want to interfere in the US presidential campaign.