A new profile of US Secretary of State John Kerry in The New Yorker casts light on the stormy relationship between the US and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who have often clashed publicly over the Iran nuclear deal and the Palestinian conflict but who also routinely refer to each other as friends.
The piece, written by the magazine’s editor in chief, David Remnick, quotes “American officials” who describe Netanyahu as “myopic, entitled, untrustworthy, routinely disrespectful toward the president, and focused solely on short-term political tactics to keep his right-wing constituency in line.”
The piece goes on to describe the “sources of Kerry’s exasperation with Netanyahu.” Quoting State Department aides, it says these “range from the injustice of settlement building in the West Bank to the way he employs Yitzhak Molcho, his lawyer and confidant, to stifle even the most inconsequential negotiation.”
Remnick also quotes Kerry as saying that, in 2010, Netanyahu balked at an opportunity to revive the peace process between Israel and Syria, despite assurances from President Bashar Assad that “he was ready to make a deal.”
Kerry said he even had a letter that Assad “wrote and signed proposing a structure by which he was willing to recognize Israel, have an embassy there, make peace, deal with the Golan, et cetera.”
But Netanyahu, the secretary told Remnick, was unwilling to move forward: “Bibi [Netanyahu] came to Washington, and one of the first things out of his mouth in the Oval Office was ‘I can’t do this. I’m not going to — I just can’t.’”
Kerry’s envoy Frank Lowenstein told Remnick the secretary would continue efforts to restart Israeli-Palestinian peace talks until the end of his term, but added, “The window for a two-state solution is closing, though none of us who’ve worked on it will regret that we tried to save it.”
Kerry, writes Remnick, “believes that Israel, along with the occupied territories, is headed toward becoming a ‘unitary state that is an impossible entity to manage.’ He is particularly concerned, he said, that the Palestinian Authority could collapse; that, in the event, “the P.A.’s thirty thousand security officers would scatter; and that chaos and increasingly violent clashes with Israel would follow.”
Kerry says Israel is failing under Netanyahu to work toward resolving the Palestinian conflict: “It is not an answer to simply continue to build in the West Bank and to destroy the homes of the other folks you’re trying to make peace with and pretend that that’s a solution.”
This is not the first time US officials have been quoted insulted the Israeli prime minister. Last year, a senior Obama administration official called Netanyahu “a chickenshit,” in an article in the Atlantic discussing the rift between the US and Israeli leaderships. The anonymous official said US officials increasingly saw the Israeli leader as acting out of a “near-pathological desire for career-preservation” rather than in Israel’s national interest.
The Atlantic’s journalist Jeffery Goldberg wrote at the time that other US officials had previously called the prime minister “recalcitrant, myopic, reactionary, obtuse, blustering, pompous, and ‘Aspergery.’”