Barak: Relations with Washington Were 'Damaged'

Former Defense Minister says that Israel’s relations with the United States were “damaged” under PM Netanyahu.

Ben Ariel ,

Barak speaks at the Globes Business Conference
Barak speaks at the Globes Business Conference
Flash 90

Former Defense Minister Ehud Barak said on Monday that Israel’s relations with the United States were “damaged” under Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu.

Speaking at the 2014 Globes Israel Business Conference, Barak said, “I told my friends in the Cabinet that we need to respect American sovereignty. They have their own opinions, and we must listen to them. We must respect them. There has never been a perfect symmetry. We must protect our own sovereignty, but, at the same time, promise that we won’t destroy our relationship with the U.S. President, or with the American public.”

“The relationship was not destroyed, but it was damaged,” he continued. “Both U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and President Obama invested a lot in helping us, and they failed. Rabin and Peres also failed; also I failed. We can’t use this to curse them. We must respect them.”

Barak added, “When calls to boycott Israel come from Europe, it’s serious, and we must take this into account. Europe is Israel’s number one partner - not the U.S., and not China.”

He attacked Netanyahu, who he claimed sided with Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney in the last presidential election, and said, “We cannot get involved in U.S. politics!”

Financial Times chief foreign affairs commentator Gideon Rachman, who participated in the discussion with Barak, when asked how the world perceives Israel, said, “In the Western world, there is a sense that Israel is drifting right, and this is dangerous for Israel. If there is a government that’s not interested in two states for two nations, it’s dangerous for Israel.”

Rachman added, “There are a lot of people in Washington who are angry, off the record. The fact that they rejected Obama regarding the settlements… he was humiliated. If Netanyahu has ties with the Republicans, the Democrats won’t like it. It’s like siding with the enemy.”

Monday’s panel comes amid continuing strains in the relations between Washington and Jerusalem, mostly around the nuclear agreement with Iran and Israel’s approval of construction in areas the Palestinian Authority claims for a future state.

The tensions came to a peak in October when journalist Jeffrey Goldberg published comments by unnamed officials in the Obama administration, made up of a series of derogatory names and insults directed at Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, including descriptions such as “chickens**t” and “Aspergery”.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry later phoned Netanyahu and apologized for the harsh comments about him, making clear that the remarks do not reflect the position of the American government.

In another indication of the tension, reports last week indicated that Washington is considering taking “harsher action” against Israeli construction efforts and is discussing taking “active measures” to discourage Israeli construction, instead of just issuing condemnations, as it has done until now.

Last week, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said that her country should strengthen its ties with Israel.

Speaking at the Saban Forum, Clinton dismissed reports of tensions between Jerusalem and Washington, saying the cooperation between the two countries is "quite extraordinary" and citing "funding of the Iron Dome, the funding of other military needs and equipment, the continuing strategic consultation" as evidence.

“No one can argue with the commitment of this administration to Israel’s security,” said Clinton, who added that nevertheless, the cooperation must be expanded, "regardless of the political back and forth between two raucous democracies."