President Obama once confided to a top adviser that he believes he is “the closest thing to a Jew that has ever sat in this office.”
In an interview by an Israeli TV station, former Obama adviser David Axelrod recalled the president venting in a moment of contemplation about criticisms that he doesn’t support Israel strongly enough, JPupdates.com reported.
“You know, I think I am the closest thing to a Jew that has ever sat in this office,” the president told Mr. Axelrod. “For people to say that I am anti-Israel, or, even worse, anti-Semitic, it hurts.”
White House press secretary Josh Earnest endorsed the sentiment Tuesday, saying Mr. Obama gave a heartfelt speech at a Jewish synagogue in Washington last month that expressed “the kinds of common bonds and common values that are embodied in his administration that are [also] advocated by the Jewish community.”
“The president does feel that kind of kinship,” Mr. Earnest said.
The TV report came out in advance of an exclusive interview that Mr. Obama conducted with Channel 2’s Ilana Dayan, which will be broadcast later Tuesday.
Mr. Axelrod also was critical of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who has had a frosty relationship with Mr. Obama.
“The world of politics everywhere is divided into two categories: the first and more common is the people who run for public office because they want to be somebody,” Mr. Axelrod said. “A smaller group is made of respectable people who run for public office because they want to do something – something positive. Shape the future in a positive way. I think Benjamin Netanyahu completely falls in the first category. He is a great politician. He knows what he needs to do to get through the next election. But it seems to me that Israel has to think about what they need to do to get through the next generation.”
Martin Indyk, U.S. special envoy for the Israeli-Palestinian negotiations from 2013 to 2014, told Ms. Dayan that “Israelis are ungrateful to this president.”
“They never appreciated his rule whereby nothing will harm the security of Israel,” Mr. Indyk said. “Obama did not manage to get that statement out so that the Israelis can really feel it. You are an emotional nation, not a rational nation. You work from your gut and not your mind. “
He said of Mr. Netanyahu’s speech to Congress this spring, which the White House opposed: “The prime minister really stuck his finger in President Obama’s eye, and this is a disturbing development.”