Chicago Mayor and former White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel expressed blunt words about Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu this weekend at a closed forum in Washington. Though the rules of the meeting with reporters, Mideast scholars and politicians were that remarks were off-the-record, a Netanyahu rival during his own speech blurted out the gist of Emanuel’s angry criticism of the Israeli prime minister.
It was the headline Monday of the Israeli paper Yediot Aharonot, which reports (Blaze translation of hard copy of paper):
The tension between the prime minister and the American president is mounting. Rahm Emanuel, someone close to President Obama, over the weekend sharply attacked Netanyahu over his support for Mitt Romney and said: “This man Netanyahu bet on the wrong man – and lost.”
Simply stated, Emanuel accused Netanyahu of meddling in the American elections. Though this was a popular theme in the liberal Israeli media leading up to November 6, the prime minister never publicly endorsed either candidate.
Speaking at the closed meeting on the sidelines of the Saban Forum, Emanuel reportedly recalled the tense Oval Office meeting last year between Obama and Netanyahu in which Netanyahu was accused of “lecturing” the president by explaining why Israel cannot withdraw to “indefensible” 1967 borders and maintain its security. Only a day before that meeting, Obama called for the 1967 borders to be the boundary of a Palestinian state, the first president to endorse that idea.
Emanuel slammed Netanyahu for doing what he said no White House guest had previously done. According to a Yediot translation, he said: “It’s unfathomable what happened there. It was unforgettable. That’s not how one behaves.” Emanuel reportedly added that the president is no longer willing to accept disrespectful treatment from Netanyahu. The paper says he called Netanyahu ungrateful in light of the Obama administration’s generous aid to Israel.
Yediot reports that Emanuel further criticized the Netanyahu government for approving 3,000 housing units in the West Bank and eastern part of Jerusalem Friday in response to the Palestinians’ successful bid to upgrade their status at the UN to non-member observer state.
Quoting unnamed sources, The New York Times reports that the Israeli housing approval “came as a rude shock” to President Obama. The New York Times’ Mark Landler writes:
Privately, officials expressed deep frustration that Israel’s action came after Israeli officials had spent days playing down the effect of the Palestinian bid and suggesting that they would only employ harsh countermeasures if the Palestinians used their enhanced status to challenge Israel in the International Criminal Court.
One official said building settlements in E1 could be an “irreversible step” for the peace process. While Israel informed the United States before making the announcement, as it has before other such announcements, it clearly caught administration officials off guard.
Emanuel’s off-the-record statements were disclosed by former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, a rival to Netanyahu who hasn’t yet announced if he plans to run for January elections. The New Yorker’s David Remnick – a Netanyahu critic himself — writes:
Olmert also violated the rules of the conference by dragging something that was off the record onto the record. He accurately, if generally, described how, earlier in the day, Rahm Emanuel, the mayor of Chicago and Obama’s former chief of staff, had spoken angrily and bluntly about the way Netanyahu has repeatedly betrayed the friendship of the United States, lecturing Obama in the Oval Office and now, after the U.S. had underwritten the Iron Dome anti-missile system, supported the operation in Gaza, and voted Israel’s way in the U.N., embarrassing the Obama Administration by taking punitive actions against the Palestinian Authority. After describing Emanuel’s remarks, Olmert went on to agree with them.
Palestinians oppose the building of Jewish housing in east Jerusalem and the West Bank – known biblically as Judea and Samaria – because they want to establish their state on that same territory. Israel established its capital in Jerusalem and insists it will never again split the city in two as it was between 1948 and 1967.
Israel National News spoke to pro-Netanyahu sources who suggest Emanuel himself is meddling in Israeli elections, that is, the timing of his remarks one month before Israelis go to the polls “is not coincidental.”