President Barack Obama described Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu as “condescending” while describing a particularly tense meeting between the two strategic allies. Shedding light on the prickly relationship between the two leaders, Obama spoke to Jeffrey Goldberg of The Atlantic about an especially chilly conversation with the Israeli leader. Obama said that Netanyahu "launched into something of a lecture about the dangers of the brutal region in which he lives.”
Obama was miffed by the “lecture” from Netanyahu, who has served as prime minister in the past and has been a fixture of U.S./Israeli relations for decades. Obama said that Netanyahu was condescending, telling him: "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."
Journalist Goldberg, who is close to Obama, wrote of the meeting as being one where Netanayahu was "lecturing" and "behaving in a condescending fashion" to him. Obama, for his part, said that his relationship with Netanyahu was in a "category all its own" among his disappointments as president.
The American president has come under criticism, not only from Netanyahu but also from other leaders for his policy towards Islamic State terror. Obama once drew a “line” in Syria that, if it were crossed by Syrian President Bashr al-Assad by an escalation of violence, would mean a response by the U.S. national security apparatus. The line was crossed, but Obama’s response has since been criticized because of a tardy U.S. response to the persecution of Christians and other minorities by the Sunni Muslim forces of the Islamic State, and his policy of supporting one militant group only to support their opponents later. Leaders in the Middle East have also expressed serious concern over Obama’s deal with Iran, which released hundreds of millions of dollars of frozen assets to the Islamic Republic in exchange for a promise that Iran will cease its nuclear weaponization program.
In the interview, Obama said that Israel could have easily cut a deal with the Palestinians for a"two-state solution," but asserted that Netanyahu opted out because of his political vulnerability. Israeli media suggested that Obama did not credit Israel’s contention that creating a Palestinian state in Judea and Samaria would be an existential threat to Israel.
The president also dismissed the idea that he had been bluffing about a possible military option against Iran if that became the only means of preventing that country from obtaining nuclear weapons. He said, "I actually would have," he told Goldberg, "If I saw them break out.”
Obama asserted that Netanyahu wants to deny to Iran even the capability of building a nuclear weapon, while he admitted that he was drawing a red line at Iran actually building one. "This was the argument I was having with Bibi Netanyahu," he said.
The interview was published just two days after it was revealed that Netanyahu turned down an offer from Obama to meet in Washington next week.
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