On Sunday, US Senator and former presidential candidate John McCain called US-Israel relations “the worst that I’ve ever seen in my lifetime”.
Speaking to CNN’s “State of the Union”, he admitted President Barack Obama is not solely responsible for the current state of affairs, but “no other president has had such a difficult relationship with the State of Israel since it became a country.”
According to McCain, part of the problem stems from Obama’s “unrealistic expectations” of Israel. The relationship between Obama and Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu is “poor, as we know”, said McCain, adding, “And it’s 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.”
Asked why he thought the relationship is the worst he’s seen, the Arizona Senator replied, “I think because 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.”
Interviewer Dana Bash pointed out that Obama is not the first president to have trouble getting along with Israel. McCain acknowledged the administration of the senior George Bush also had its strained moments, including an incident in which, The Times of Israel explained, then-Secretary of State James Baker publicly taunted then-Israeli Prime Minister Yitzchak Shamir, saying he could call the White House general access number if he wanted to patch things up.
“[T]he relations with Israel have not always been excellent. But I think any observer would argue they’ve never been worse,” he said.
McCain had words for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s invitation to address Congress, and the Obama administration decision to snub him for accepting.
“I think that given the way that relations are between the president and the speaker and the majority leader, Senator McConnell, it’s not surprising. Obviously we would want everybody to work together,” he said.
“But there’s a real crisis going on,” continued McCain, “and that is these negotiations with Iran, which many of us believe are already fatally flawed, that the speaker felt the overriding concern was to have him appear before the American people and tell them about the dangers of a very bad agreement with Iran on nuclear weapons.”
“Obviously I would have talked to the White House. 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,” he added.
This is not the first time McCain has expressed criticism of the Obama administration or its relationship with Israel. Last year, he said of Obama, “I thought Jimmy Carter was bad, but he pales in comparison to this president in my view.”
In November, he derided Secretary of State John Kerry’s efforts to broker a peace deal between Israel and the Palestinians, calling him a “human wrecking ball”.