Israel recalls envoy over leaked memo

JERUSALEM | The Israeli consul-general in Boston has been summoned home for “clarifications” after sending the Foreign Ministry a memorandum saying that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s attitude toward the Obama administration is causing Israel strategic damage.

“There are political elements in America and Israel who oppose Obama on ideological grounds and are ready to sacrifice the special relationship between the two countries for the sake of their own political agendas,” wrote the consul, Nadav Tamir.

The memorandum, described as a confidential internal document, was leaked to Israel’s Channel 10 last week.

Ministry officials said Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman summoned Mr. Tamir to Jerusalem over the weekend because he wants to know why the document received wide circulation among Israeli legations in the United States and within the ministry, as well as how it reached the media despite its supposedly confidential character.

Mr. Tamir is a well-regarded veteran diplomat described by some diplomatic colleagues as “highly intelligent” but by others as “too ivory tower.” From his post in Boston, he is in close contact with the academic elite in the U.S. Northeast.

In his memorandum, “Sad Passing Thoughts on Israeli-U.S. Relations,” Mr. Tamir wrote that Israel’s refusal to accept President Obama’s demands to halt construction within West Bank settlements and in East Jerusalem has caused Israel to be lumped together in the minds of many Americans with nations on Washington’s hard-line list.

“Nowadays,” he wrote, “there is a sense in the United States that Obama is being forced to deal with obduracy from the governments of Iran, North Korea and Israel. The [U.S.] administration is making an effort to play down the disagreements, and we are the ones who are actually making the differences public.”

This “image of a conflict” between the two governments, he said, was more harmful to Israel in terms of American public opinion than Israel’s highly criticized incursion into Gaza earlier this year or the devastation wreaked on Lebanon during the war with Hezbollah three years ago.

Mr. Netanyahu’s policy, the diplomat wrote, also is causing American Jews to distance themselves from Israel. “The atmosphere of confrontation between the Israeli government and the Obama administration puts the American Jewish community, which is so important to us, in a difficult position.”

Diplomats are expected to provide analysis of political sentiment in the areas where they are posted, but some diplomats said Mr. Tamir’s blunt criticism of a prime minister’s policies was unusual or, as one termed it, “out of bounds.”

Mr. Netanyahu’s office issued a statement Sunday saying that Mr. Tamir’s memorandum “was not worthy of comment.”

A senior official in Jerusalem said the memorandum was “unprofessional” and suggested that its title and the fact that it was leaked to the media show that it was intended to make Mr. Tamir’s views public. “It is unfortunate,” he said, “that an Israeli diplomat launched this type of an attack on Israeli policies, attempting to cause deliberate harm.”

The consulate in Boston issued a statement saying Mr. Tamir’s memorandum was an internal document not intended for publication.

In reply to Washington’s call for a halt in Israeli construction in East Jerusalem, Mr. Netanyahu has issued defiant statements claiming Israel’s right to continue building in the area, which was annexed after the 1967 Six-Day War. He also has rejected any territorial compromise with the Palestinians in Jerusalem.

Regarding a settlement freeze in the West Bank, Jerusalem has attempted to keep its differences with Washington low key, issuing assurances that a mutually acceptable solution will be found soon.

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