When offered to choose a reporter to ask a question, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu very quickly chose an Israeli-sounding male who used some pretty bold terminology in his questions to both President Barack Obama and Netanyahu:
Mr. President, in the past year, you distanced yourself from Israel and gave a cold shoulder to the Prime Minister. Do you think this policy was a mistake? Do you think it contributes to the bashing of Israel by others? And is that — you change it now, and do you trust now Prime Minister Netanyahu?
And if I may, Mr. Prime Minister, specifically, did you discuss with the President the continuing of the freezing of settlements after September? And did you tell him that you’re going to keep on building after this period is over?
That’s a fierce phrasing of a question for Obama — and a rather leading question for Netanyahu regarding settlement construction.
So, who was this guy?
The video below starts with Obama offering Netanyahu the choice of a reporter to ask a question.
Note also that the reporter seems very prepared; it sounded to my ears initially as though he was reading from a prepared text. And how quickly Netanyahu picks him. This naturally raises the question: did Netanyahu and the reporter arrange this ahead of time? And if so, did they let Obama know about it, too?
Obama’s & Netanyahu’s responses are after the jump.
PRESIDENT OBAMA: Well, let me, first of all, say that the premise of your question was wrong and I entirely disagree with it. If you look at every public statement that I’ve made over the last year and a half, it has been a constant reaffirmation of the special relationship between the United States and Israel, that our commitment to Israel’s security has been unwavering. And, in fact, there aren’t any concrete policies that you could point to that would contradict that.
And in terms of my relationship with Prime Minister Netanyahu, I know the press, both in Israel and stateside, enjoys seeing if there’s news there. But the fact of the matter is that I’ve trusted Prime Minister Netanyahu since I met him before I was elected President, and have said so both publicly and privately.
I think that he is dealing with a very complex situation in a very tough neighborhood. And what I have consistently shared with him is my interest in working with him — not at cross-purposes — so that we can achieve the kind of peace that will ensure Israel’s security for decades to come.
And that’s going to mean some tough choices. And there are going to be times where he and I are having robust discussions about what kind of choices need to be made. But the underlying approach never changes, and that is the United States is committed to Israel’s security; we are committed to that special bond; and we are going to do what’s required to back that up, not just with words but with actions.
We are going to continually work with the Prime Minister and the entire Israeli government, as well as the Israeli people, so that we can achieve what I think has to be everybody’s goal, which is that people feel secure. They don’t feel like a rocket is going to be landing on their head sometime. They don’t feel as if there’s a growing population that wants to direct violence against Israel.
That requires work and that requires some difficult choices — both at the strategic level and the tactical level. And this is something that the Prime Minister understands, and why I think that we’re going to be able to work together not just over the next few months but hopefully over the next several years.
PRIME MINISTER NETANYAHU: The President and I discussed concrete steps that could be done now, in the coming days and the coming weeks, to move the peace process further along in a very robust way. This is what we focused our conversation on. And when I say the next few weeks, that’s what I mean. The President means that, too.
Let me make a general observation about the question you posed to the President. And here I’ll have to paraphrase Mark Twain, that the reports about the demise of the special U.S.-Israel relations — relationship aren’t just premature, they’re just flat wrong. There’s a depth and richness of this relationship that is expressed every day. Our teams talk. We don’t make it public. The only thing that’s public is that you can have differences on occasion in the best of families and the closest of families; that comes out public — and sometimes in a twisted way, too.
What is not told is the fact that we have an enduring bond of values, interests, beginning with security and the way that we share both information and other things to help the common defense of our common interests — and many others in the region who don’t often admit to the beneficial effect of this cooperation.
So I think there’s — the President said it best in his speech in Cairo. He said in front of the entire Islamic world, he said, the bond between Israel and the United States is unbreakable. And I can affirm that to you today.