In a sign of increasing tension between the Obama administration and Israel, the Israeli government’s Press Office used one of its Twitter accounts to retweet an article criticizing the president.
“Israeli official: Obama doesn’t give us same sense Clinton did that he’ll be there if things go bad – Times of #Israel,” the Israeli government press office tweet read.
— Gov’t Press Office (@GPOIsrael) September 25, 2012
The article in question, titled “PM heads to UN from region in turmoil, with a US president ‘failing to put Israel at ease,” goes right for Obama’s vulnerabilities on Israel and twists the knife, accusing Obama not only of failing to be a strong ally relative to his immediate predecessor, but even compared with former President Bill Clinton:
That Israeli sense that the region is becoming more dangerous with each passing day is driving the prime minister’s actions, the official, who asked to remain anonymous, said last week.
And while Israelis peer fearfully around at a region in turmoil, Obama is failing to put them at ease, the official added.
“President Clinton made us feel like he had our back [at Camp David]. When we made concessions that were greater than anything an Israeli government had ever offered, we felt he’d be there if things went bad. Would he have been there? I don’t know. But it felt that way, and it put us in a different frame of mind. President Obama doesn’t give us the same sense that he’d be there.”
This official does not believe Obama is uniquely unfriendly toward Israel, noting, “He just doesn’t seem to make friends. Not with anyone. He isn’t friendly with David Cameron either.”
This Israeli official, who presumably spoke off the record to avoid ruffling feathers, may now consider his efforts wasted, if the government’s Tweet constitutes an endorsement. However, that is not necessarily a given. As Politico noted when they first reported the Tweet, the Israeli embassy in Washington studiously denies that this particular bit of social networking drama constitutes a sign of rising tensions between Tel Aviv and DC:
In a statement, the Israeli embassy in Washington said that the tweet did not constitute an endorsement — something that the Twitter account makes clear with a disclaimer that “tweet/RT does not constitute endorsement of view.”
“The GPO distributes links to various articles to members of the press community and does not represent the government policy,” the embassy told POLITICO. “The quote in this article doesn’t reflect the position of the government of Israel. Israel deeply appreciates President Obama’s commitment to its security and the superb defense cooperation between our two countries.”
This is a suitably diplomatic answer, and given that it comes from diplomats, that’s as it should be. However, critics may well look to the off-the-record statements as a more candid statement of the Israeli government’s thinking about the apparently “friendless” President Obama.