Oct 19, 2021

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Recent comments from US President Barack Obama’s administration against Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu were a form of revenge, a senior diplomatic official in Jerusalem told Israeli media.

The official, who spoke to Avi Issacharoff of Walla! News and The Times of Israel on condition of anonymity, also said it was “no secret” Obama had worked to oust Netanyahu in last week’s elections and was disappointed by the results.

“The White House is driven by three main motives,” the senior official told Issacharoff. “The first is revenge [over the Congress speech]. The second is frustration: It’s no secret that they were involved in an attempt to bring down the Netanyahu government – something that we have clear knowledge of – and failed. The third [motive] is the administration’s attempt to divert attention from the negotiations with Iran to the Palestinian issue.”

Indeed, speaking at a J Street conference in Washington Monday, White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough called on Israel to end its “50-year occupation” of Judea and Samaria, using a term usually avoided by the US government.

He expressed the belief that “the best way to safeguard Israel’s long-term security is to bring about a comprehensive peace between Israelis and Palestinians.”

“That’s why the Prime Minister’s comments on the eve of the election, [which] made very clear that a Palestinian state will not be established while he is prime minister, were so very troubling,” McDonough told the 3,000-strong dovish audience.

He was referring to Netanyahu’s statement in an pre-election interview with the Hebrew-language NRG website. “We cannot simply pretend that these comments were never made,” he said.

The anonymous official took Netanyahu’s position one step further, however. “[Obama] continuously warns of a deteriorating state of chaos in the [Palestinian] territories, when he knows that the only place that truly manages to maintain stability in the Middle East right now is [Israel],” the official said.

“Netanyahu said there will be no agreement [with the Palestinians] during his term in office.” A Palestinian state “won’t even happen in our generation,” the official added. “Everyone knows it.”

Federal legislators applaud Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu during his speech to a joint session of Congress on Tuesday. (Photo: Amos Ben Gershom/GPO)

Federal legislators applaud Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu during his speech to a joint session of Congress earlier in March. (Photo: Amos Ben Gershom/GPO)

Regarding the failure of peace talks, the official added that the US “come and accuse us of torpedoing negotiations even though they know that Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas himself said no [to a deal], twice — once to then-secretary of state Hillary Clinton in 2011, and once to Secretary of State John Kerry last year.”

The official added that the Palestinians also rejected two “framework agreements” accepted by Israel, which were meant to jump-start negotiations. He accused the Obama administration of devoting too much energy to the Palestinian issue.

“Look what we have done so far with the construction in the settlements,” the official argued. “We took upon ourselves all of the restrictions from the [Ariel] Sharon – [George W.] Bush era, which allowed natural growth but not the establishment of new settlements.

“But this administration does not understand the Sharon-Bush terms,” he continued. “Their policy is a ‘no brick’ policy, and it doesn’t make any sense.”