Sen. John McCain said Sunday that the relationship between the United States and Israel has “never been worse” than it is now under the Obama administration.
“Relations with Israel have not always been excellent, but I think any observer would argue they’ve never been worse,” Mr. McCain said on CNN’s “State of the Union.”
The Arizona Republican chalked up the rift in part to President Obama, saying he “had very unrealistic expectations about the degree of cooperation that he would get from Israel, particularly on the Palestinian issue as well as on the nuclear issue with Iran.”
“I’m not putting the entire blame on the president of the United States, but I will say this: No other president has had such a difficult relationship with the state of Israel since it became a country,” said Mr. McCain, who lost the 2008 presidential race to Mr. Obama.
Tensions escalated after House Speaker John Boehner invited Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to speak before Congress in March without first informing the White House. Mr. Obama has pursued negotiations with Iran over its disputed nuclear program, raising concerns in Israel about U.S. objectives.
The relationship between Mr. Obama and Mr. Netanyahu is “poor, as we know,” Mr. McCain said Sunday. “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.”
Mr. McCain, who chairs the Senate Committee on Armed Services, also refused to back down from his comment during a hearing Thursday featuring former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, in which Mr. McCain told an anti-Kissinger protester, “Get out of here, you lowlife scum.”
“Of course I was outraged, and I’m still outraged,” Mr. McCain said of the protest, which saw about a dozen protesters surround Mr. Kissinger as he prepared to testify, waving signs and a pair of handcuffs and chanting, “Arrest Henry Kissinger for war crimes!”
“I think they’re terrible people, OK? I think they’re terrible people that would do that to a 91-year-old man with a broken shoulder, to physical threaten him,” Mr. McCain said. “That is beyond any norm of behavior that I have ever observed. They literally surrounded him and were physically in such proximity to him, he was in danger of being harmed. That’s what I object to.”
On Israel, Mr. McCain said he would have talked to the White House first before inviting Mr. Netanyahu to speak before Congress, but that he wasn’t surprised by the lack of notice, given the president’s fraught relations with the Republican House and Senate leadership.
“I think that given the way relations are between the president and the speaker and the majority leader, Sen. [Mitch] McConnell, it’s not surprising,” Mr. McCain said.
“Obviously we would want everybody to work together, but there’s a real crisis going on, and that is that 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,” he said.