Respect for Israel and PM Netanyahu: Trump vs. Obama

Body language and rhetoric dramatically changed with new president in the White House

by Edmund Kozak | Updated 22 May 2017 at 8:12 PM

President Donald Trump’s warm reception in Israel this week cast a sharp contrast with the often visibly icy state of U.S.-Israeli relations under the previous administration.

Gone was the often stiff and hostile body language on display when former President Barack Obama and Prime Minister Netanyahu met, replaced with frequent smiles and laughter.

“The smiles tell you everything.”

“Just look at the footage you just showed. Look at the body language, look at the smiles,” said White House advisor Dr. Sebastian Gorka on Fox News Tuesday. “It’s so very different. How much different after eight years of Israel being shunned by the last administration?” he said.

“The smiles tell you everything,” Gorka said. “Our closest ally is now being treated as our closest ally in the Middle East,” he said.

U.S.-Israeli relations deteriorated significantly under the previous administration. Obama and his administration often criticized Israel over the issue of settlements, and his pursuit of a nuclear deal with Iran infuriated Israeli leaders.

The tension over U.S. rhetoric and policies often became personal.

President Barack Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu during a joint statement to the media at the White House in September 2010 (Credit: Reuters)

“I have no doubt we’ll get along very well,” Netanyahu predicted following Barack Obama’s election in 2008. But by 2015, the Huffington Post was dissecting “The Worst Relationship Between A U.S. President And An Israeli Prime Minister Ever.”

In March 2010, a meeting between the two world leaders in the White House was widely reported to be disastrous.

“One Israeli newspaper called the meeting ‘a hazing in stages,’ poisoned by such mistrust that the Israeli delegation eventually left rather than risk being eavesdropped on a White House telephone line,” reported the New York Post.

“Another said that the Prime Minister had received ‘the treatment reserved for the President of Equatorial Guinea,'” the Post reported.

“The Prime Minister leaves America disgraced, isolated, and altogether weaker than when he came,” the Israeli daily newspaper Haaretz said.

President Trump shakes hands with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu during a joint news conference Tuesday (Credit: Reuters)

Obama — whose very first trip outside North America as President included a jaunt to Muslim countries in the Middle East — would not visit Israel until his second term in office.

In 2015, Netanyahu canceled a meeting with Obama in Washington D.C. at the very last minute — without telling the White House.

"We were looking forward to hosting the bilateral meeting, and we were surprised to first learn via media reports that the prime minister, rather than accept our invitation, opted to cancel his visit," said National Security Council spokesman Ned Price at the time.

Netanyahu and the Israelis' attitude towards Obama was best summed up by Netanyahu himself, in a not-so-subtle jab at the Obama administration he made during a joint press conference with President Trump on Monday. "I cannot tell you ... how much we appreciate the reassertion of American leadership in the Middle East," Netanyahu told Trump.

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