Dennis Ross’ book about the United States-Israel relationship is about to come out, and it includes a bombshell revelation about tensions between President Barack Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
Ross, in a passage excerpted from the book Thursday in Politico, says that Susan Rice, the U.S. national security adviser, was so furious with Netanyahu’s angry reaction to news of an acceleration in Iran nuclear talks in November 2013 that she told Abraham Foxman, the Anti-Defamation League’s then-director, that Netanyahu did everything but “use the ‘N-word’ in describing the president.”
Ross — the former peace negotiator who worked for Obama on Middle East issues, including Iran — says he understood Rice to be accusing Netanyahu not of racism, but of attacking the president in nearly every other way. His book is titled “Doomed to Succeed: The U.S.-Israel Relationship From Truman to Obama.”
Issues of race have popped up more than once in the relationship between Obama and American Jews and Israel. Notable examples are Obama’s disavowal of his anti-Semitic pastor, Jeremiah Wright; racist expressions about Obama from those identified with Netanyahu; black lawmakers otherwise sympathetic to Israel seeing Netanyahu’s speech to Congress as part of a pattern of white comeuppance; and Obama’s fury with Netanyahu for making a bogeyman of bused-in Arab voters during Israel’s March election.
So did Rice, in her conversation with Foxman, mean to say Netanyahu was a racist?
I’ve asked Foxman to give me his firsthand impression, and I’ll update when he does. Rice’s spokesman gave The New York Times an answer about her relationships with the Israelis, but did not directly address the “N-word” quote.
Ross, in a conversation posted Friday by The Atlantic’s Jeffrey Goldberg, says he does not think Rice thinks Netanyahu is a racist (nor does he think Netanyahu is a racist). Rather, he says, Rice thinks Netanyahu has pulled out every stop except for racism in his contentious relationship with the president to fight the Iran nuclear deal.
Goldberg asks: “Is there a chance — did she use this expression, ‘N-word,’ just as a way of saying, ‘This is how bad it got,’ or was the president really thinking that Bibi was engaged in some sort of race-based attack?”
“I think it’s the former,” Ross says. “This is how mad we are at what he’s doing, and doesn’t he realize that we did a deal in good faith, and look at how he’s reacting, or he’s overreacting to it. It’s out of bounds.”