Team Obama’s childish and petulant refusal to congratulate Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on his re-election is an unforced error that’s almost hard to believe, even from this crew. All they had to do was issue a pro-forma statement, just a few little words, a polite nod would do if an exuberant high-five is too much to ask.
Such congratulations are not taken as wholehearted agreement with the recipient – they’re more of a salute to the legitimacy of the democratic process, as is most clearly evident by the tradition of defeated American politicians congratulating their opponents. Sometimes it is rather obvious congratulations are coming through clenched teeth, but saying the words is still important. The absence of such a salute is more noticeable than its polite delivery.
David Steinberg at PJ Media recalls that Obama personally congratulated Prime Minister Erdogan of Turkey, President Sisi of Egypt, President Rouhani of Iran, and even Vladimir Putin on their re-elections, but stubbornly refuses to congratulate Netanyahu. He ended up delegating Secretary of State John Kerry to give the re-elected president of a vital American ally a quick jingle; Obama’s press secretary says his boss will get around to phoning him in a couple of days.
Not only has Obama snubbed Netanyahu, he dispatched a flack to rub salt in the wound with this toddler temper tantrum: “We want to congratulate the Israeli people for the democratic process for the election that they just engaged in with all the parties that engaged in that election.”
Obama’s snit has been noticed by other leaders in America and around the world. Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper seemed to be needling Obama when he said on Twitter, “I congratulate PM Netanyahu on his election results. We look forward to working with the government once formed. Israel has no greater friend than Canada.”
“Congratulations to Netanyahu on the election result,” said British Prime Minister David Cameron on Twitter. “As one of Israel’s firmest friends, the United Kingdom looks forward to working with the new government.”
Netanyahu’s erstwhile opponent in the election, Isaac Herzog, announced he had spoken to Netanyahu and congratulated him, even as he admitted Wednesday morning “has not been an easy one for us or our followers.”
Naturally, President Obama’s domestic political opponents cited his petulance. Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) really lowered the boom:
Prime Minister Netanyahu has been an extraordinary leader for Israel, and I congratulate him on what appears to be a victory today. His electoral success is all the more impressive given the powerful forces that tried to undermine him, including, sadly, the full weight of the Obama political team. American officials should not be undermining the elected leaders of our closest allies, especially when Prime Minister Netanyahu’s heroic – even Churchillian – opposition to a nuclear Iran has done such tremendous service to U.S. national security. The American people are proud to stand steadfastly with our Israeli brothers and sisters. May our friendship grow and prosper, and may the Nation of Israel stay forever strong.
Obama’s childishness has been noticed in Israel, where his refusal to congratulate Netanyahu has become a fairly major story. After noting that the European Union officially congratulated the re-elected Prime Minister despite significant political differences, particularly on the matter of Palestinian statehood, Israel National News wrote, “In contrast to the EU’s speedy congratulations, US President Barack Obama has yet to comment on Netanyahu’s victory.”