This post was updated on July 28, 2012.
Hoping to manipulate the U.S.-Israel relationship to their political advantage, many Republicans have been falsely accusing President Obama of disrespecting Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. They often point to a claim that the President “snubbed” Prime Minister Netanyahu during a meeting at the White House last year. Mitt Romney said in an interview, “I think he disrespected Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.”
The strong relationship between President Obama and Prime Minister Netanyahu has been forged over their close work together. Since they both took office in 2009, President Obama has met with Prime Minister Netanyahu nine times in person and made frequent phone calls and consultations with the prime minister on issues regarding Israel’s best interests. As these two leaders and those who know them describe the relationship:
Israel’s Defense Minister Ehud Barak said, “Our countries are good friends. And I’m the minister of defense, I can tell you that I can hardly remember … a better period of support, American support and cooperation and similar strategic understanding of events around us than what we have right now.”
Israeli President Shimon Peres used an interview ahead of this year’s AIPAC conference in Washington, D.C. to praise President Obama as “a great president and a great friend of Israel,” saying that security cooperation between the two countries is “the best we’ve ever had.”
As for the supposed “snub,” both American and Israeli officials have repeatedly debunked the idea that the President abruptly left a ceremonial meeting in an insult to the Prime Minister. “Frustrated” over the rumors of a “snub,” Ambassador Oren explained that President Obama and Prime Minister Netanyahu had worked “closely and positively” during a long working—not ceremonial—meeting and that President Obama actually gave his Israeli counterpart “the unusual privilege of staying on in the White House to work after the President retired. Later when Netanyahu asked if the president could return to hear new ideas, he gladly did; and the two parted on good terms.”
As President Obama noted, he left to afford Prime Minister Netanyahu time to convene with his team before he came back to continue the meeting. Accounts that he left to have dinner with the First Lady and his daughters are false, as all three were in New York that evening.
After a suicide bomber killed five Israelis in July in Bulgaria, President Obama condemned the attack and reaffirmed America’s “unshakeable commitment to Israel’s security and our deep friendship and solidarity with the Israeli people.” The President called Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu the day of the bombing to offer his condolences and assistance, pledging to stand with Israel and provide whatever assistance would be necessary to identify and bring to justice the perpetrators.
Republicans’ claim that President Obama is disrespectful of Prime Minister Netanyahu may serve the political narrative they’re trying to weave, but it in no way describes the strong relationship between the two leaders.