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Israeli official taunts Obama


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Jan. 4, 2014

The Obama administration’s criticism of the current Israeli government only serves to make Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his Likud party more popular with the electorate, charged Likud Knesset Member Danny Danon in a U.S. radio interview Sunday.

Danon was speaking on “Aaron Klein Investigative Radio” on New York’s AM 970 The Answer.

Danon had been asked about some recent accusations the Obama administration may be trying to influence the March 17 general elections in Israel by repeatedly criticizing Netanyahu’s policies.

The Likud politician charged “there are a few people in the administration who sometimes want to get involved and I can tell you one thing. Whenever somebody tries to get involved in our politics they actually are achieving the opposite direction.”

He continued: “For example, when President Clinton was trying to get involved in the elections in Israel, he was supporting the Likud party. The same for today.

“The more pressure we see that comes from the U.S. it makes my party, the Likud party, stronger. Because the people understand that the prime minister and the Likud Party are standing on the issues.”

Danon stressed he was referring only to some White House members and not the general U.S. leadership.

He spoke of Israel’s “very strong relationship with the United States,” which he told Klein he had personally witnessed.

“I was in the Pentagon in the last summer as the deputy minister of defense and I was exposed to the level of support and confidence that we have between the strong nations,” stated Danon.

Leftist politicians here have repeatedly utilized Obama administration criticism of the current Israeli government to attack Netanyahu politically.

In October, Israel’s Ynet news website reported that a request by Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon to meet with U.S. Vice President Joe Biden, Secretary of State John Kerry and National Security Adviser Susan Rice during his visit to Washington had been denied by the White House. This reported move is highly unusual, and was seen in Israel as a nearly unprecedented snub of Netanyahu’s government.

It helped to set off a firestorm against Netanyahu domestically, particularly among the center and the left, with senior politicians Tzippy Livni and Yair Lapid leading the charge.

Also in October, the U.S. espoused uncharacteristically harsh language to oppose a plan for Israel to build 2,610 new homes on empty lots in Givat Hamatos, a Jerusalem neighborhood in the eastern section of the city where Palestinians want to build a future state.

Immediately following a meeting between Netanyahu and President Obama in October, State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki and White House spokesman Josh Earnest took the Israeli leader’s delegation by surprise when they released nearly identical statements slamming the Jerusalem construction.

They warned the housing plans could distance Israel from its “closest allies,” a clear euphemism for the U.S., and questioned whether Netanyahu was interested in peace.

Netanyahu for his part said at the time that he was “baffled” by the U.S. criticism, stating the American position “doesn’t really reflect American values.”

Lapid and Livni endorsed the U.S. condemnation and accused Netanyahu of damaging U.S.-Israeli relations.

Lapid took further issue with Netanyahu’s plan to build roughly 400 homes in Har Homa and about 600 in Ramat Shlomo.

“This plan will lead to a serious crisis in Israel-U.S. relations and will harm Israel’s standing in the world,” Lapid said.

Again in October, the Atlantic’s Jeffrey Goldberg described relations between the U.S. and Israel as a “full-blown crisis” and reported that senior Obama administration officials had called Netanyahu “chickensh-t” on matters related to the so-called peace process.

Lapid jumped on the remarks to release a vaguely nuanced criticism of Netanyahu: “I said only a few days ago that there is a real crisis in the relations and it needs to be dealt with responsibly,” he said, while lecturing U.S. and Israeli officials on the “need to tackle the crisis behind the scenes.”

Adding more fuel to the firestorm, Israel’s Ha’aretz newspaper reported last month the Obama administration had held a classified discussion a few weeks earlier about possibly taking more proactive measures against the “settlements,” including mulling sanctions or punishing Israel at the United Nations.

The State Department dismissed the claims as “unfounded and completely without merit.”

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