- New book from former top adviser to President Obama reveals the President wanted to be tougher on Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu
- Obama "felt he had pulled his punches with Netanyahu to avoid antagonizing elements of the American Jewish community," David Axelrod writes in new book.
- Obama-Netanyahu tensions have exploded into public view in recent weeks, with Netanyahu coming to speak to Congress, contrary to Obama's desires
These are things "I'll want to work on in my second term," the president told his top staffers, as one of them referenced the Warren Beatty movie Bulworth, in which a candidate goes on a reckless spree of truth-telling. "Some of them may make you guys nervous. But Axe keeps saying I should be 'authentic.' So maybe I should go out there and just let it rip."
In addition to revealing his actual position in favor of legal same-sex marriages, and working on immigration reform and to combat climate change, the president singled out the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Axelrod wrote. Specifically, he wanted to be tougher on Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
"From almost his first day in office, (President Obama) had pushed the Israelis and Palestinians for a two-state solution, but his efforts, like those of presidents before him, had been run aground by the intractable politics of the Middle East. He was frustrated with both sides, but felt he had pulled his punches with Netanyahu to avoid antagonizing elements of the American Jewish community."
The Obama-Netanyahu tensions have exploded into public view in recent weeks, in this second Obama term, with the Israeli Prime Minister coming to speak to Congress to press legislators to pass a bill to impose more sanctions on Iran, contrary to the president's desires. The president has said he wants to give diplomats time to come to a peaceful resolution to convince Iran to give up its nuclear weapons program. There have been harsh and accusatory back and forth quotes on the record and on background between the Obama and Netanyahu camps.
Elsewhere in the book, Axelrod, who is Jewish, wrote that the president is a strong supporter of the Jewish state. Of the president's trip to Israel as a presidential candidate in 2008, Axelrod wrote that the "visit would help quell the concerns of some American Jews, who feared that a black man with an Islamic-sounding name and a Farrakhan-hugging minister would not feel a sufficient bond with Israel."
Despite the presence of Axelrod and other Jews among the ranks of Obama senior advisers, "the questions persisted. 'I know what he says about Israel,' I was asked more than once by anxious Jews back home, 'but does he feel it in his kishkes?' Though the questions would persist into his presidency, on this trip, Barack more than passed the kishkes test."
More recent results of the kishkes test were unclear as of press time.