President Barack Obama has no shortage of chutzpah. His message to Benjamin Netanyahu: Do as I say, not as I have done.
The White House is furious with the Israeli prime minister because some of the same Democratic operatives who helped get Obama elected were unsuccessful in trying to defeat Netanyahu in the recent Israeli election.
Wait, that’s not the right cover story. Ah yes, here it is:
The White House is furious with the Israeli prime minister because some U.S. officials have concluded that Netanyahu cannot be trusted, and will not hesitate to engage in unscrupulous behavior.
Look who’s talking. Does anyone trust the Obama administration? Not Republican lawmakers on the right or Democratic activists on the left.
The administration has criticized Netanyahu for playing the race card (against Arab voters), for being insincere, and for flip-flopping for the sake of politics on an important issue — namely, support for a two-state solution with the Palestinians.
In the last six years, Obama, members of his administration and their supporters have done all these things and more in dealing with a host of touchy and controversial domestic issues ranging from Obamacare to immigration reform.
Playing the race card? Democratic Sen. Dick Durbin of Illinois recently accused Republicans who have failed to confirm Loretta Lynch as attorney general of shoving Lynch, who is African-American, to “the back of the bus.”
Being insincere? In a single speech, Obama will promise to work with the opposition and move beyond partisanship and then, a few paragraphs later, demonize Republicans.
Flip-flopping? Obama spent four years insisting he didn’t have the executive authority to stop illegal immigrants from being deported. Then, facing re-election in 2012, he miraculously found the power he claimed he didn’t have.
Where in the world does this administration, or its enablers, find room to criticize Israel for any of these things?
Those U.S. officials who don’t trust Netanyahu will now find vindication in a recent report in The Wall Street Journal. The story alleges that Israel spied on closed-door talks between U.S. and Iranian officials designed to limit Iran’s nuclear program and shared what it learned with Republicans in Congress. Israeli officials deny the accusation.
Some Obama supporters are taking umbrage at the idea the United States would be spied on by a friend and ally.
Look who has a short memory. You may recall that, in October 2013, the Obama administration sparked a series of international incidents when it was revealed that U.S. intelligence agencies were spying on a variety of friends and allies, including Germany, France and Mexico.
When that scandal broke, the Obama-friendly media trotted out national intelligence and security experts to say there was nothing to see there, and that no matter how friendly some countries might be, their interests sometimes diverge.
Let’s see if the media push the same argument to defend the practice of spying on friends and allies now that Israel is accused of engaging in it. Don’t hold your breath.
According to the Journal, which cited unnamed current and former officials, the White House isn’t as upset about the alleged spying as it is about the charge that Israel shared the information it had gathered with U.S. lawmakers and others, presumably to undermine the negotiations.
If the story is true, then we’ll know two things: The Netanyahu government doesn’t trust this administration any more than the White House trusts the Israelis; and, here at home, the relationship between the White House and Congress is in worse shape than we thought.
After all, when Netanyahu recently spoke to Congress, liberal commentators insisted that we must stop “partisan politics at the water’s edge.”
That’s a charming idea. It has been since the 1940s when Republican Sen. Arthur Vandenberg of Michigan, chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, introduced that phrase into the American lexicon and threw his support behind the foreign policy objectives of Democratic President Harry Truman. Could we return to that happy place where the political parties are on the same team when it comes to foreign affairs?
Because if representatives of the Obama administration are saying things to representatives of the Iranian government behind closed doors in Geneva that they don’t want Republicans to be aware of back in Washington, this doesn’t suggest that, in this administration, U.S. officials are keeping partisan politics at the water’s edge. Rather, it tells us that they pack it up in their suitcase and take it with them wherever they go.
Ruben Navarrette is a columnist for The Washington Post Writers Group.