Zalman Shoval
Zalman ShovalIsrael news photo

Zalman Shoval, a former two-time Israeli ambassador to the United States, says it’s not true that Obama wants to topple the Netanyahu government.

“I don’t believe at all,” Shoval told Arutz-7 Hebrew news magazine host Benny Tucker, “that Obama wants to topple Netanyahu. It could be that there were ideas like this a year ago, when they both first took office, but it is now clear to the Obama Administration and to those close to it that the only game in town is Binyamin Netanyahu. I’m not saying there aren’t some who have hopes and the like, but it is clear now that Netanyahu is here to stay.”

Asked if the cancellation of special envoy George Mitchell’s return trip to Israel is connected with the tensions between the U.S. and Israel, Shoval said he does not think so. “It is more likely that since the Palestinian Authority has not yet agreed to return to the proximity talks, there’s no point in having Mitchell come back,” Shoval said, “as there is no framework for him to work in.”

Shoval, 80, served as Israel's envoy in Washington from 1990 to 1993, and from 1998 to 2000, when the Likud was in power. He was a Knesset Member from 1970 until 1981, and again from 1988 to 1990, mostly on behalf of the Likud.

Tucker asked Shoval if he agrees with the estimations sounded in the media that it was Barack Obama himself who orchestrated the weekend of accusations against Israel. Shoval said, “We only know two things. One is that the original reaction against Israel by Vice President Biden following the news of the approval of the housing came directly from Obama.  Afterwards, when Biden spoke to Netanyahu and heard and accepted his explanations, Biden’s new conciliatory approach did not find favor in the eyes of certain people within the Administration… In general, it is not clear who is in charge of foreign policy in the White House – it could be Secretary of State [Hillary] Clinton, or Biden, or [special adviser] David Axelrod, or [White House chief of staff] Rahm Emanuel… There is some confusion in the White House on this issue. In any event, if the anti-Israel campaign is a result of the confusion, then it will be easier to alleviate it.”

“What is supposed to happen in the future regarding housing in Jerusalem?” Tucker asked Shoval. “After all, the city housing committee meets very often to approve various plans; what do you envision?”

“Not everything has to be announced,” Shoval said. “It need not be totally secret, but we should speak softly.”