The internet last week was abuzz with the latest “in your face” insult by President Barack Obama to Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu. Netanyahu asked to meet Obama when they attend the upcoming United Nations General Assembly meeting next week and Obama refused. What unmitigated anti-Israel chutzpah!
The only problem is, it did not happen that way. On page 31, we print an interview with Netanyahu in which the alleged slight does not even rate a mention. The interview was conducted by Sheldon Adelson’s Yisrael Hayom newspaper, which likely would not have missed an opportunity to make the president look bad before Election Day. That it did not is most telling about the truthfulness of the rumor.
As for the rest of this latest Obama myth – that the United States and Israel are not on the same page regarding Iran – Netanyahu shoots that down, as well. “It is not a conflict,” he says. “It is a question of emphasis on Israel’s interests.”
It is a matter of perspective, Netanyahu said. “Israel is closer [to Iran] and more vulnerable. The U.S. is big, far away, and less vulnerable.” Given that, “it is natural to have disagreements,” Netanyahu added.
What is the truth behind the myth?
The two men will be in New York on different days next week, with Yom Kippur separating their visits. A meeting between them may yet be arranged outside New York, if Israel asks for one, but Israel reportedly has not. After all, Netanyahu arrives in New York early Thursday morning, only hours after the end of Yom Kippur. He will return home before the start of Sukkot on Sunday night. Between the two, he has to give his speech to the General Assembly, and, publicly at least, observe Shabbat. Obama, meanwhile, will be out campaigning. There is almost no window of opportunity for a meeting, although the myth-makers do not allow facts to get in the way of their rantings.
Opposition leader Shaul Mofaz blames Netanyahu for the false reports. Bibi, he says, is using the presidential campaign to pressure Obama into adopting Israel’s tougher stance on the Iran nuclear threat.
In the interview, Netanyahu denies the charge.
“That is complete nonsense,” he said. “The only thing guiding me is not the U.S. elections, but the centrifuges in Iran…. If the Iranians were to hit the ‘pause’ button and stop enriching uranium and building a bomb until the end of the elections in the U.S., then I could wait. But they are not waiting. They are progressing.”
Netanyahu’s defense minister, Ehud Barak, also seemed to criticize the prime minister last week.
The United States, Barak said, “is Israel’s main ally… [and] Israel’s most important supporter in the security field…. [W]e have to remember the importance of our partnership with the United States. We should do everything possible not to harm it.”
Netanyahu had an answer for that, as well: “I can make nice and word things delicately, but our existence is at stake. This is our future. We’re talking about a historic junction that has profound meaning. These are not just words and I am not exaggerating. That is what I have done, and that is what I will continue to do.”
The myth-makers do both Israel and the United States a great disservice by spreading falsehoods with such abandon. They will not stop. If we truly care about Israel’s security, therefore, we all will have to get better at checking the facts before passing on the latest “news” from the Internet.