From The New York Times …
White House Antagonism Toward Netanyahu Grows
By JULIE HIRSCHFELD DAVIS
MARCH 20, 2015
WASHINGTON — The White House is stepping up its antagonism toward Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu despite his victory in this week’s elections, signaling that it is in no rush to repair a historic rift between the United States and Israel.
The sharpened tone indicates that the Obama administration may be re-evaluating its relationship with its closest ally in the Middle East, having lost patience with Mr. Netanyahu in the closing days of an election campaign in which he spotlighted deep disagreements with President Obama over a Palestinian state and a nuclear deal with Iran.
“You reach a tipping point,” said Daniel C. Kurtzer, a former American ambassador to Israel and Egypt. “It’s the culmination of six and a half years of frustration, including some direct hits at the president’s prestige and the office of the presidency.”
The aggressiveness underlines a calculation by Mr. Obama that an international accord with Iran to rein in its nuclear program is within reach despite Mr. Netanyahu’s adamant opposition, and that there is little value in being more conciliatory toward him.
And, domestically, the administration is risking the alienation of a core Democratic constituency of Jewish voters, in part banking on the fact that many of them also are upset with Mr. Netanyahu.
“In a way, the administration has already won,” said Aaron David Miller, a former Middle East adviser to Democratic and Republican administrations. “If you get agreement by the end of March, it will be historic in nature, it will have demonstrated that the administration is prepared to willfully stand up to Republican opposition in Congress and to deal with members of its own party who have doubts, and has withstood Israeli pressure.”
In a congratulatory call to Mr. Netanyahu on Thursday that Mr. Obama waited two days to place, the president chided the prime minister for his pre-election declaration that no Palestinian state would be established on his watch.
Although Mr. Netanyahu has since tried to backtrack on those comments, Mr. Obama said that they had nonetheless forced his administration to reassess certain aspects of its policy toward Israel, according to a White House official who offered details of the call only on the condition of anonymity.
For the second consecutive day on Friday, the White House publicly questioned Mr. Netanyahu’s sincerity about the Israeli-Palestinian peace process, suggesting that Mr. Obama did not trust him to back Palestinian statehood, a central element of United States policy in the Middle East.
Asked why the president did not take the prime minister at his word about his support for a two-state solution, Josh Earnest, the White House press secretary, quickly shot back: “Well, I guess the question is, which one?”
“The divergent comments of the prime minister legitimately call into question his commitment to this policy principle and his lack of commitment to what has been the foundation of our policy-making in the region,” Mr. Earnest said.
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