The ever worsening diplomatic relationship between Israel and the United States may have hit a new low following the White House decision to tighten control over weapons transfers to Israel and an uncharacteristically tense phone conversation between the nations’ leaders.
The Times of Israel, relying on a story from the Wall Street Journal, reports that U.S. President Barack Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu took part in a “particularly combative phone call on Wednesday.”
The story indicates a growing distrust between the two administrations with Obama viewing Netanyahu as reckless and untrustworthy and the Israeli leader coming to regard Obama as weak and naive.
The growing tension likely stems from the administration’s decision last month to halt the transfer of Hellfire missiles to Israel. Those missiles were intended to be used in the ongoing conflict between Israel and Hamas in Gaza. The White House has also said that the State Department will now evaluate every weapons transfer to Israel.
That decision came in the wake of a White House discovery that the Pentagon was supplying Jerusalem with arms without the knowledge of the State Department.
One U.S. diplomat said the administration felt “blindsided” by the Pentagon’s back channel transfers.
“There was no intent to blindside anyone. The process for this transfer was followed precisely along the lines that it should have,” a Pentagon official was later quoted as saying.
The halt of arms supplies also came after U.S.-supplied shells were used by Israeli forces in a July 30 strike on a United Nations facility that killed 16 people.
“The shelling of a U.N. facility that is housing innocent civilians who are fleeing violence is totally unacceptable and totally indefensible,” White House spokesman Josh Earnest said at the time.
The phone call between Obama and Netanyahu Wednesday was the first time the two had spoken since July 27, according to USA Today.
National Security Council spokesman Benjamin Rhodes said the two discussed “ongoing efforts to get a sustainable cease-fire in place with respect to Gaza.”
A White House statement said that the president “reaffirmed the United States' support for Egypt's mediation efforts and underscored the importance of achieving a sustainable outcome that ensures Israel's security and addresses Gaza's humanitarian crisis.”
But such talk has little chance of achieving a lasting cease-fire between Israel and Hamas. Fox News reports both administrations now know that the White House and State Department hold little political sway over the Israeli government.
An unnamed Israeli official acknowledged as much by saying that the two administrations no longer trust each other.
The official described the tension between Obama and Netanyahu as “very personal” and based on a “mistrust and a collision of different perspectives on the Middle East.”