WASHINGTON (CBS DC) — In a trip to renew a close relationship with the Israeli leadership and public, President Obama’s Middle East visit was deemed a “success,” setting the stage for future negotiations, according to former Israeli Ambassador to the United States Itamar Rabinovich.
The former Israeli ambassador and chief negotiator with Syria in the 90s said via conference call that, “With lessons learned from his failure from his previous term,” Obama achieved success in reconnecting with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and the Israeli general public directly.
Following strained relationships between right-leaning Netanyahu – who formed a close relationship with Republican Mitt Romney during his losing presidential campaign against Obama last year – Rabinovich stressed that Obama’s goals for this trip were about repairing the past and looking forward to the future.
“The main purposes of the trip were to correct the wrong of Obama’s first-term relationship; to demonstrate unwavering commitment to the Israeli public.” said Rabinovich. “To renew the trust of the Israeli prime minister held by Obama’s presidential successors, and to reach out for a peace process—not to put any concrete plan, but to leave that to the Secretary of State – who will be back to the region soon to lay the basis for the secretary’s success.”
Rabinovich stated that Obama wanted to “break the intimacy” between the Israelis and the U.S. in his first term by speaking directly to Muslims in Cairo and Istanbul in his first Middle East visit. But Rabinovich believes that all Obama succeeded at was losing the confidence of the Israeli public, and that of Netanyahu, to take serious military action in the region if needed by Israel.
Rabinovich said there was an overt mistrust and dislike between Netanyahu and Obama during nearly all of the president’s first four years in office.
However, Rabinovich deemed the trip a success and said that Obama “is a very good entertainer and he performed at his best with the Israeli public.”
Former Ambassador Rabinovich also stated that despite Israel’s turn to the right with Netanyahu’s election in 2009, much of the strain on the relationship has come from troubles in the Middle East region. The Iranian nuclear quest, the war in Lebanon and troubles with the President Bashar Assad leadership in Syria have all increased anxiety and stressed relations between Israel and the U.S. in recent years.
“The two countries share the determination to deny Iran of a nuclear weapon, and it is not comfortable to Israel,” said Rabinovich. “If you live in Tel Aviv or you live in Kansas you feel differently on the issue.”
Rabinovich stressed that much of the success or failure of President Obama’s trip on peace negotiations between the Israelis and Palestinians will not become apparent until Secretary of State John Kerry visits later this year.