Former WSJ Reporter on NPR: Obama, Kerry Not Popular In Middle East

On NPR's Diane Rehm Show on Wednesday, former Wall Street Journal foreign correspondent Yochi Dreazen (now with Foreign Policy magazine) discussed the growing unrest in Israel, and explained that "the level of distrust toward this White House among Gulf State Arabs in particular is staggeringly high....That includes John Kerry personally. And it includes President Obama even more personally. They don't trust him on a personal level."

Dreazen put that on top of accusations from Israel's defense minister that "John Kerry was trying to do this for a Nobel Peace Prize and because he had messianic tendencies."

YOCHI DREAZEN: You had comments last week from Martin Indyk, who'd been the head of the Kerry negotiating team in shuttling back and forth, that were rather staggeringly pessimistic. He used phrases like that Bibi Netanyahu and Abbas loathe each other, despise each other. He basically said that there was really no possibility of a deal in the foreseeable future that talks themselves might be useless.

But when you have the former peace negotiator, who left not even two weeks ago, come out and say basically, there's no chance for a deal, that's striking. He was trying to simultaneously defend Kerry against the charges that are already beginning to be fueled again of John Kerry, Iraq is melting down, Syria's melting down, Egypt is melting down to a lesser degree. Why are you focusing so much on Israel when the chances of a deal of any kind are so historically remote?

I think that that's frankly a fair question. That question's being asked by Democrats, by Republicans, has been asked in the past. Now it's being asked even more loudly. And I don't think there's a good compelling administration answer. I think not in the distance past the defense minister of Israel said that John Kerry was trying to do this for a Nobel Peace Prize and because he had messianic tendencies. The State Department exploded, not surprisingly, and said, ‘Why would a close ally say this about Secretary of State? It's despicable.’

He is not the only person in the Israeli government who feels that way. He's not the only person in the Arab world that feels that way. The level of distrust towards this White House among Gulf State Arabs in particular is staggeringly high. That was high before this. They see the U.S….

REHM: And that includes John Kerry.

DREAZEN: That includes John Kerry personally. And it includes President Obama even more personally. They don't trust him on a personal level. But they don't understand this White House. This White House is being oriented towards the Shiite part of the Arab world, not towards them and obsessed with this remote possibility as opposed to the countries they see as threats, which are Iraq and Syria.


Later in the program, former negotiator Aaron David Miller, who often appears on CNN and MSNBC, added this strong brew as he noted that the U.S. has too strong an alliance with Israel to really be a “honest broker” or neutral with the Palestinians:

MILLER: But the reality is we have this extraordinarily unique relationship with the Israelis. And in times of crisis, particularly when the region is melting down, we are simply not willing or able frankly to look at this problem symmetrically. We have an asymmetric relationship. And this president, who in my judgment, cares more about the middle class than he does about the Middle East, whatever his personal feelings about Netanyahu -- and I think they're pretty raw frankly, they're pretty raw. I've seen prime ministers and American presidents now for 25 years interact. This is one of the worst personal relationships. But...

REHM: That's very frank talk.

MILLER: It is, but this man Barack Obama knows he's got less than a thousand days left in his presidency. He is not looking for a major fight with the Israelis, particularly now.

Tim Graham
Tim Graham
Tim Graham is Executive Editor of NewsBusters and is the Media Research Center’s Director of Media Analysis