Netanyahu Resurfaces FRONTLINE Clip of Him Lecturing Obama Amid Re-election Campaign

Israel's prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu displayed on a screen during the AIPAC conference in Washington, D.C., on March 26, 2019.

Israel's prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu displayed on a screen during the AIPAC conference in Washington, D.C., on March 26, 2019. (Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

March 28, 2019

In a tight race for re-election, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu circulated a scene from FRONTLINE’s Netanyahu at War, which shows him lecturing then-President Barack Obama in 2011.

Netanyahu, who is facing possible indictment over corruption charges, posted the clip on his social media accounts on Thursday to burnish his image as a staunch defender of Israel. In a Facebook post accompanying the segment, the prime minister wrote, “In the face of all pressure, I will protect our country.”

The tense meeting shown in the video took place the day after Obama — in an attempt to jumpstart stalled Israeli-Palestinian peace talks — said that the borders between the two countries should be based on the 1967 lines in place before the Arab-Israeli war, with some adjustments for Israeli settlements on the West Bank.

Netanyahu, seated next to Obama in the Oval Office, says bluntly, “It’s not going to happen.” Obama stares back at Netanyahu with his chin in his hand.

“I have never seen a foreign leader speak to the president like that, and certainly not in public, and I’ve never — certainly never seen it happen in the Oval Office,” Ben Rhodes, Obama’s deputy national security adviser at the time of the meeting, says in the FRONTLINE documentary.

In contrast to that 2011 interaction, during a trip to the White House earlier this week, Netanyahu stood next to President Donald Trump and extolled the U.S.–Israel relationship under the current administration.

“Over the years, Israel has been blessed to have many friends who sat in the Oval Office, but Israel has never had a better friend than you,” Netanyahu said. He went on to cite Trump’s withdrawal from the Iran nuclear deal, restored sanctions against Iran, recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, and proclamation of Israel’s sovereignty over the Golan Heights. In a sharp reversal of decades of U.S. policy, Trump on Monday officially recognized Israel’s annexation of the territory, which it captured from Syria in 1967.

In the full film Netanyahu at War, FRONTLINE examined the Israeli leader’s political history, his combative relationships with two American presidents, and how he became one of Israel’s longest-serving prime ministers and a polarizing figure on the world stage.

Priyanka Boghani

Priyanka Boghani, Deputy Digital Editor, FRONTLINE



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