The Transcript Scandal Exposes Rising Rancor between US, Israeli Leaders

American and Israeli officials shot down the purportedly leaked transcript of a call between US President Barack Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu on Wednesday July 30, saying it bears “no resemblance to reality.”
But DEBKA Weekly’s sources say the text is authentic and it accurately illustrates the growing rancor between the two leaders as efforts to craft a Gaza truce prove elusive.
The US National Security Council and the Prime Minister of Israel’s Office tweeted identical statements on the afternoon of Tuesday, July 29:
“We have seen reports of an alleged POTUS-Netanyahu transcript; neither reports nor alleged transcript bear any resemblance to reality. [It's] shocking and disappointing someone would sink to misrepresenting a private conversation between POTUS and PM in fabrications to Israeli press.”

A “high-ranking American official” peeks into a confidential call

The report was aired on Israel’s TV Channel 1 News, a state-funded network. The reporter, Oren Nahari, said it was leaked to him by a high-ranking American official. He said the phone conversation, which took place on Sunday July 27, lasted 35 minutes in total. He said the source characterized the conversation between the two leaders as tense, with Obama showing impatience while Netanyahu sounded incredulous about the president’s demands.

“Obama: Israel is in no position to choose mediators”

The following is the English translation of the transcript that was broadcast in Hebrew.
Barack Obama: I demand that Israel agree to an immediate, unilateral ceasefire and halt all offensive actions, in particular airstrikes.
Binyamin Netanyahu: And what will Israel receive in exchange for a ceasefire?
BO: I believe that Hamas will cease its rocket fire — silence will be met with silence.
BN: Hamas broke all five previous ceasefires. It’s a terrorist organization dedicated to the destruction of Israel.
BO: I repeat and expect Israel to stop all military activities unilaterally. The pictures of destruction in Gaza distance the world from Israel’s position.
BN: [US Secretary of State John] Kerry’s proposal was completely unrealistic and gave Hamas military and diplomatic advantages.
BO: Within a week of the end of Israel’s military activities, Qatar and Turkey will begin negotiations with Hamas based on the 2012 understandings, including Israel’s commitment to removing the siege and restrictions on Gaza.
BN: Qatar and Turkey are the biggest supporters of Hamas. It’s impossible to rely on them to be fair mediators.
BO: I trust Qatar and Turkey. Israel is in no position to choose its mediators.
BN: I protest, because Hamas is allowed to continue to launch rockets and use tunnels for terror attacks –
BO (interrupting Netanyahu): The ball’s in Israel’s court, and it must end all its military activities.

Rice tries to fix the damage Obama caused

Very senior Israeli sources confirm the transcript accurately presented the conversation as it took place between the two leaders, admitting that its leak marked an all-time low in relations between any US president and Israeli prime minister.
The sources told DEBKA Weekly that Obama’s tone and phrasing in the conversation mirrored those of Kerry last week in Cairo and Israel, and his language at the Paris meeting which he convened over the weekend in search of a ceasefire formula.
He invited UK, European, Qatari and Turkish representatives, but pointedly left off his guest list the senior players in the crisis, Israel, Egypt and Palestinian Authority, despite their dominant roles in the Gaza hostilities and their inevitable direct involvement in any future truce.
In the diplomatic back and forth that has run alongside the bombs and rockets, Israel accused Kerry of ignoring its security demands in favor of Hamas’ patrons and friends Qatar and Turkey, and even of Hamas itself.
Some major news outlets, led by the Washington Post, have also been scathingly critical of Kerry’s effort, describing it as “John Kerry’s big blunder in seeking an Israel-Gaza ceasefire.”
On Monday, July 28, Kerry and National Security Advisor Susan Rice tried to repair some of the damage caused by the transcript to the trust between the two leaders.

Kerry and Rice try to mend fences without success

Kerry tried backtracking from a decision taken only two days previously in Paris by adding Israel’s basic demand to place Gaza’s demilitarization and the disarmament of terrorist organizations on the table in negotiations for a solution of the current conflict, though not necessarily in the talks for a ceasefire.
Rice, for her part, used a crucial speech to underscore the administration’s commitment to Israel and dismiss criticism of its military offensive in Gaza as biased and unjustified. Staunchly defending Israel’s right to defend itself against rockets fired from the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip, Rice aimed a broadside at the United Nations Human Rights Council, which last week was persuaded by the Palestinian Authority to set up a commission of inquiry to probe war crimes charges against Israel.
But DEBKA Weekly’s sources say their attempts to mend fences did not go far – the chasm between Washington and Jerusalem is simply too wide.
By going to war against Hamas, Netanyahu implicitly turned his back on the Obama administration’s Middle East policy and lined up – albeit informally – with the Saudi Arabia-Egypt-UAE alignment against the Muslim Brotherhood and Iran. (See “The Gaza War against Hamas is Managed by a Troika: Abdullah, Sisi and Netanyahu” in DNW no. 644 of July 25).

The rift is not just personal. US pro-Hamas steps cause rancor

This is much more than a clash of personalities between Netanyahu and Obama. Obama’s steps to save Hamas from downfall while the IDF was in the midst of a costly counter-terror struggle against those same Islamist extremists, are bitterly resented by Israel’s diplomatic, military and intelligence communities as a betrayal of the traditional trust Israel has reposed in all American presidents.
This gap opened up when Obama adopted a policy of détente with Israel’s most vocal enemies. It is expected to widen further with the approach of US midterm elections in November, as Washington continues to give ground to Tehran on its nuclear weapons program as well as sanctions relief.
As a sidebar to the transcript incident, the CIA and Mossad are both intent on hunting down the mysterious “high-ranking American official” who is feeding the TV reporter with hot leaks. This was not the first. Nahari quoted the same source recently as disclosing that Obama had warned Netanyahu in a previous phone call that Washington would withhold criticism of Israel’s Gaza operation only so long as Palestinian deaths remained below 1,000 – but not after that.

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