Israeli Ambassador to the United States Ron Dermer gently chided NJ for asking about this at a press breakfast this week hosted by The Christian Science Monitor. "The press focuses all the time on the differences that exist," he complained. "We know that you are always going to focus on tension, and there have been times when we have not seen eye to eye with the administration on different issues."
Even for a diplomat, though, that is a remarkable understatement. Almost from the day of Obama's inauguration in 2009, he and Netanyahu have clashed on policy and demonstrated how very different they are in style and temperament. In 2010, the tensions surfaced during the prime minister's visit to the White House. In 2011, Netanyahu publicly scolded and lectured Obama at the White House. Also in 2011, an open microphone at the G-20 summit in Cannes captured French President Nicolas Sarkozy and Obama discussing Netanyahu. "I can't stand him. He's a liar," said Sarkozy. "You're tired of him—what about me? I have to deal with him every day," responded Obama. In 2012, Netanyahu did everything but wear a Mitt Romney pin, leaving no doubt he would prefer that the Republican nominee beat Obama. And the president returned the favor when he gave an interview a week before the Israeli election, in which he was highly critical of the prime minister. Jeffrey Goldberg, who interviewed Obama for the article for Bloomberg, reported that the president viewed Netanyahu as a "political coward."
Despite the verbal shots, both men were reelected. Both were angry. But both came to realize that they would have to rise above their mutual enmity, that the alliance was more important. "Both of them reacted to the election results," said Bard, who formerly edited the Near East Report, the weekly newsletter of the influential American Israel Public Affairs Committee. "Netanyahu recognized he was going to have to deal with Obama four more years, and Obama recognized there is not much chance that Netanyahu would be unseated. And that has forced them to work together and to be a little more sensitive to each other's concerns and to try not to take measures or make statements that would inflame the relationship."
That approach has been on display this week as the Obama administration has been solidly behind Israel's military operation in Gaza, mostly keeping out of public view any horror at the rising civilian casualties inside Gaza. Both sides also point to the Iron Dome defense system that has kept the toll down inside Israel. "As the success of Iron Dome in saving Israeli lives has demonstrated, our security cooperation under this administration has been unprecedented," said Earnest.
And Israel has noticed.
"On security cooperation, we are talking about unprecedented security cooperation.... And we are appreciative of the fact that we have been able to have the Iron Dome system that has been working so well. Intelligence-sharing is very good," said Derner. The ambassador stressed that these matters are more important than bruised personal feelings.