WASHINGTON (JTA) — Sen. John McCain called President Barack Obama’s relations with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu “the worst that I’ve ever seen in my lifetime.”
“And that in itself is a tragedy because it’s the only functioning democracy in the entire Middle East,” McCain (R-Ariz.) told CNN’s Dana Bash in an interview broadcast Sunday.
McCain, who ran against Obama in 2008, said Obama was not entirely to blame, although he said the president also expected too much from Netanyahu.
“The president had very unrealistic expectations about the degree of cooperation that he would get from Israel, particularly on the Palestinian issue, as well as the nuclear issue with Iran,” he said.
McCain added that “no other president has had such a difficult relationship with the State of Israel since it became a country.”
Bash noted the parlous relations between the administration of President George H. W. Bush, whose secretary of state, James Baker, openly taunted then-Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir with the White House general access phone number should he be ready to make peace.
McCain agreed those were not good relations, but insisted they were not as bad.
“It never reached this level,” he said.
McCain said that he would have consulted with the White House before inviting Netanyahu to address Congress, although he backed the invitation last month by Rep. John Boehner (R-Ohio), who did not consult Democrats, the White House or the pro-Israel community before issuing it.
“Obviously I would have talked to the White House,” he said. “But I may have — and I hate to put myself in these leaders’ place — but I might have at least informed them. But I certainly agree that you don’t need their permission, given the state of relations.”