Media Throw a Fit Over 'Rude' Netanyahu 'Lecturing' Obama

For many in the media Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu's reaction to Barack Obama insistence that his country return to the 1967 borders was out of bounds. ABC's Christiane Amanpour declared she was "stunned" by his "public lecture" of the President and NBC's Andrea Mitchell hissed, "it was really rude," and charged he treated Obama "like a school boy." Mitchell didn't reserve her criticism to Netanyahu as she even went after Republicans who dared to take his side, accusing them of "piling on the President."

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The following is a collection of some of the media's most outrageous outbursts over the Israeli prime minister's response to Obama, over the last couple of days:

First up, on Friday Mitchell offered this condemnation of Republicans on her MSNBC show, Andrea Mitchell Reports:

MITCHELL: The political pitfalls of wading into the Israeli-Palestinian stalemate was on display today, with Republican presidential contenders piling on the president. 2012 hopefuls slamming Mr. Obama for saying that Israel should give up lands occupied since 1967, even as some Senate Republicans offer a more measured reception – those not running for office, not running for president.  

John Heilemann is National Affairs editor for New York Magazine and joins us from New York. So first of all, the angry reception that the President got, was that predictable? Whatever happened to politics ending at the water's edge? 

Then, on the May 22 edition of Meet the Press, Mitchell expressed offense "in the fashion" Netanyahu "lectured" the President, "treating him like a school boy."

DAVID GREGORY: At the same time, what's happening today, we want to take you live here in Washington, D.C., to the scene of AIPAC. This is the pro-Israel lobby, very powerful in the United States. The President will be speaking here, Andrea Mitchell, and this is on the heels of a rupture with Israel. The President said this week that any peace plan, a Palestinian state would have to go back to the borders of prior to the 1967 war. This was significant.

MITCHELL: He did have language that said there would be land swaps to protect Israel's security, but it was taken as a red flag by Netanyahu. And what happened then was that even if this was implicit in things that previous presidents had said, Netanyahu seized on it. Even before he got on the plane, he criticized the President, and in such a fashion! He lectured him in the Oval Office. And if you look at that picture that you have up there right now, it was a stone-faced Barack Obama and Netanyahu basically treating him like a school boy. People even who work for Netanyahu, some Israeli officials, told him later that he went too far. That it was, it was really rude and that there would be blowback to this.

Also on Sunday, on ABC's This Week, Amanpour joined Jake Tapper in being flabbergasted by what they saw as Netanyahu exacerbating an already "frosty relationship" with Obama.

CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR: So you talked about no relationship. I mean, they have a frosty relationship at best, right, Jake?

JAKE TAPPER: It's - there's no love lost, I think it's fair to say. And I also think it's fair to say that when Bibi in the Oval Office did something I've never seen happen-

AMANPOUR: I was going to ask you-

TAPPER: -which is, which is this little history lesson on the Jewish people and suffering, that did not endear him further to the White House.

AMANPOUR: Were you, were you stunned by that? I mean, it did look like a public lecture.

AARON MILLER, FORMER STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: Yeah, I mean, it was - it was pretty unprecedented. I mean, [Menachem] Begin used to lecture Carter, but it was done privately. Begin was too polite to do it publicly. Netanyahu saw an opportunity. He was clearly upset. I mean, he feels that he was set up. So this was payback.

And it was payback at a time when the prime minister feels pretty self-confident that the peace process is going nowhere. And he has a number of cards to play. I'm not sure, however, for an American audience, you want to be in a position of lecturing your only reliable ally.

AMANPOUR: Even Jeffrey Goldberg, who is one of the most reliable friends of Israel in print and in all sorts of way, said that he was offended to see - to see the Israeli prime minister basically lecturing the President of the United States and that Netanyahu had, quote, "gone out of his way" to alienate this president.


Over on CBS's Face the Nation Bob Schieffer took exception to Newt Gingrich calling Obama's demand for Israel to return to pre-1967 borders "dangerous."

BOB SCHIEFFER: And we're back with the Republican presidential candidate Newt Gingrich. Mister Gingrich, the President made a big speech on the Middle East last week. What did you think of it?

NEWT GINGRICH: I think it is a disaster. I think it is extraordinarily dangerous. I think that it--defining the 1967 border would be an act of suicide for Israel. They are totally non-defensible. Ithink for the United States, you know-- we don't have moral equivalence here. You have Hamas which is a terrorist organization whose stated goal is the destruction of Israel. You have a democracy. Now the idea that somehow we're supposed to be neutral between Hamas and Israel is fundamentally flawed. And I do not believe that we should have any pressure on Israel as long as Hamas's policy is the destruction of Israel. And as long as missiles are being fired into Israel and terrorists are preparing to try to kill Israelis. And I think it is-- a President who can't control his own border probably shouldn't lecture Israel about their border.

SCHIEFFER: I have to ask you though you're using words like dangerous. I mean, the President was calling for peace. How- why - why can you characterize that as dangerous?

GINGRICH: Because how do you have peace with a Hamas organization whose stated goal is the destruction of Israel and driving every Israeli out of the country? I mean, read what Hamas says. This idea, that somehow -  these people are firing missiles virtually every day intoIsrael. These people are constantly preparing for terrorism. They're recruiting children to be suicide bombers. How - how can you - the President talks about peace when he ought to be insisting that we cut off all aid to Hamas and isolate Hamas as long as it is a terrorist organization trying to destroy an entire people. I mean, I really think we've got to get over this moral equivalence.

 ??Then on Monday's edition of CNN's In the Arena, it was Eliot Spitzer's turn to offer his spin as he spouted: "Did Netanyahu blow it?" and depicted Obama as the "best friend" staging an intervention for the good of the Israeli PM.

SPITZER: Did Netanyahu blow it? Israel's prime minister draws a line in the sand and Obama walks over it. If your best friend can't tell you you're wrong, who can?...For the President to have said out loud what every secretary of state would, every prime minister would, every negotiation for a decade, what everybody in the public who cares about this has known to be the case, that is not new and it is certainly not worth the prime minister picking a very public dispute with the president when the president has gone out of his way to make so many important statements about other elements of the policy. That is why I think Prime Minister Netanyahu made a mistake about this. It was not new. And therefore, this fight was not worth it. 

Geoffrey Dickens
Geoffrey Dickens
Geoffrey Dickens is the Deputy Research Director at the Media Research Center.