President Obama used the race card during a tense debate over the future of the Middle East with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
Obama recently agreed to an extensive interview with the Atlantic’s Jeffrey Goldberg for its April issue. The piece, titled “The Obama Doctrine,” highlights the president’s growing disillusionment with long-time allies. Obama even disclosed how he linked obstacles with Netanyahu to condescension instead of an ideological divide.
“In one of Netanyahu’s meetings with the president, the Israeli prime minister launched into something of a lecture about the dangers of the brutal region in which he lives, and Obama felt that Netanyahu was behaving in a condescending fashion, and was also avoiding the subject at hand: peace negotiations,” the magazine reported. “Finally, the president interrupted the prime minister: ‘Bibi, you have to understand something,’ he said. ‘I’m the African-American son of a single mother, and I live here, in this house. I live in the White House. I managed to get elected president of the United States. You think I don’t understand what you’re talking about, but I do.'”
Goldberg said Obama placed Netanyahu into his “own category” of frustrating leaders.
“Obama has long believed that Netanyahu could bring about a two-state solution that would protect Israel’s status as a Jewish-majority democracy, but is too fearful and politically paralyzed to do so,” Goldberg said. “In recent days the president has taken to joking privately, ‘All I need in the Middle East is a few smart autocrats.'”
Goldberg writes, “Some of his deepest disappointments concern Middle Eastern leaders themselves. Benjamin Netanyahu is in his own category.”
Ironically, the president used the same interview to acknowledge that his 2009 speech in Cairo, Egypt, appears quixotic in hindsight.
“‘My argument was this: Let’s all stop pretending that the cause of the Middle East’s problems is Israel’ [Obama] told me,” Goldberg wrote. “‘We want to work to help achieve statehood and dignity for the Palestinians, but I was hoping that my speech could trigger a discussion, could create space for Muslims to address the real problems they are confronting – problems of governance, and the fact that some currents of Islam have not gone through a reformation that would help people adapt their religious doctrines to modernity. My thought was, I would communicate that the U.S. is not standing in the way of this progress, that we would help, in whatever way possible, to advance the goals of a practical, successful Arab agenda that provided a better life for ordinary people.'”
Goldberg ended his interview by asking about another subject Obama’s critics say he approached with rose-colored glasses: Iran. The president and six world powers reached deal with Iran last summer, which lifted international sanctions based on the assumption it would transparently curb its nuclear program.
“Look, 20 years from now, I’m still going to be around, God willing,” Obama told the Atlantic. “If Iran has a nuclear weapon, it’s my name on this. … I think it’s fair to say that in addition to our profound national-security interests, I have a personal interest in locking this down.”
Perhaps as a harbinger of things to come, Iran’s Revolutionary Guard test-fired multiple missiles on Wednesday that were inscribed with “Israel must be wiped out” in Hebrew.
“A nuclear-armed Iran is an absolutely unacceptable threat to Israel, to the region and the United States. And I want to reiterate which I know people still doubt here. If in fact they break the deal, we will act,” Vice President Joe Biden said in a statement released Wednesday.