The Israeli government are claiming that the White House deliberately attempted to negatively influence the recent Israeli elections to seek “revenge” against Benjamin Netanyahu.
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“The White House is driven by three main motives,” an unnamed senior official told the Times of Israel. “The first is revenge. The second is frustration: It’s no secret that they were involved in an attempt to bring down the Netanyahu government – something that we have clear knowledge of – and failed. The third is the administration’s attempt to divert attention from the negotiations with Iran to the Palestinian issue.”
The source was likely referring to the group V15 which ran a get-out-the-vote campaign designed to push Netanyahu out of office. V15 was connected to the One Voice movement, which seeks a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The State Department reportedly gave several hundred thousands dollars to One Voice. V15 also hired a former Obama campaign strategist to run it’s campaign.
The accusation is just the latest retort in an escalating war of words between Washington and Jerusalem. Monday evening the Wall Street Journal published an article claiming Israel had spied on negotiations between the U.S. and Iran. The article makes clear the U.S. learned of Israel’s behavior by intercepting communications between Israeli officials. In other words, U.S. spies caught Israeli spies spying. Because of how the information came to light, the article’s sources downplay the spying but draw the line at sharing information with Republicans in Congress.
The Obama White House’s anger at Netanyahu has been building for months. It predates the Israeli election and Netanyahu’s address to Congress. Last October a “senior Obama administration official” who spoke to the Atlantic’s Jeffrey Goldberg said that Netanyahu was “a chickenshit.” Another official seconded this description and added that Netanyahu was also a “coward.” The focus of White House anger at the time was Netanyahu’s decision to allow more Jewish settlements in East Jerusalem.
The White House has since upped the rhetoric in response to Netanyahu’s election eve statement that there would be no two-state solution during his term if he were re-elected. That statement came immediately after Netanyahu stated that no such agreement was possible “today” and, in any case, Netanyahu has since reaffirmed his commitment to a two-state solution. Nevertheless, the White House has refused to accept his claim and has since suggested that U.S. policy toward Israel at the United Nations might change.
Even as the White House remains hyper-sensitive to comments from Netanyahu, it is almost absurdly intent on ignoring statements coming out of Tehran. Iran’s supreme leader Ali Khamenei gave a speech last weekend which prompted chants of “death to America!” Khamenei responded to the crowd saying, “Death to America, of course, because America is the principal element behind this pressure.” Asked about this, the White House replied that the “death to America” statement had been “intended for a domestic political audience.”
Negotiations with Iran are still ongoing, but several leaks of the planned deal have been published by the Associated Press. The leaks make clear that the U.S. has significantly backtracked from its initial goals with regard to the number of centrifuges Iran would be allowed to keep. The current plan would allow for 6,000 centrifuges. In return for concessions which would allegedly extend the breakout time (the time it takes Iran to complete a nuclear bomb) from 3 months to a year, the U.S. would agree to immediately drop sanctions which have damaged Iran’s economy.