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March 6, 2014 5:42 pm

Jeffrey Goldberg Says He Interpreted Obama Comments on Israel as a ‘Veiled Threat’

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Jewish journalist Jeffrey Goldberg being interviewed by Charlie Rose on Bloomberg View, on March 5, 2014. Photo: Screenshot.

Journalist Jeffrey Goldberg being interviewed by Charlie Rose on Bloomberg View, on March 5, 2014. Photo: Screenshot.

Journalist Jeffrey Goldberg said that he interpreted U.S. President Barack Obama’s recent comments on Israel as a “veiled threat.”

Goldberg interviewed Obama last week, with his scoop published on the eve of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Oval Office meeting on Monday, as well as preempting the prime minister’s appearance at the 2014 AIPAC Policy Conference on Tuesday.

In an interview with Bloomberg View talk show host Charlie Rose late on Wednesday, Goldberg said that he has been interviewing Obama on the subject of Israel for seven years, and has followed his “evolving views” on the Jewish state and Netanyahu.

Goldberg said Obama shows that he has “deep concern” for resolving the Israel-Palestinian Authority conflict, but as the current U.S.-brokered peace process approaches its self-imposed climax of a “framework agreement,” expected next month, Obama’s rhetoric is becoming less “diplomatic” and “more specific.”

“It’s not that the gloves are coming off, it’s that the mask of diplomatic language is coming off,” Goldberg said. Obama is “more specific about the problems he sees down the road for Israel,” about the demographics, “how Israel is going to cease to be a Jewish democracy at a certain point” and “how he’s having a harder time defending Israel in international organizations.”

Goldberg said it seemed to him to be a question of whether Obama was “unwilling or unable,” but the U.S. president made it clear that it was not because of a lack of willingness, describing the “undying” support America will always have for Israel.

Goldberg paraphrased Obama as saying, “Israel is growing more isolated and we can’t defend it in the same way.”

“I took it to be a little bit of a veiled threat, to be honest,” Goldberg said. “It’s almost up there with, you know, nice little Jewish state you got there, I’d hate to see something happen to it.”

“It was, look, I want to help you, but you’re not helping me help you, and, therefore, there’s only so much political capital I’m going to go spend in the UN, with the EU, with the Arab League, on your behalf,” Goldberg said. “I think it was all couched very carefully but it’s there and certainly the government in Israel feels like it’s there.”

When asked to describe the relationship between Obama and Netanyahu, Goldberg quipped, “Oh, it’s just filled with joy, very clearly.”

Rose described Obama as having “a certain grudging respect for the prime minister,” adding that Obama “said the prime minister is in a historic position because of his political skills to do things and he pays him that respect.”

Goldberg replied with a “theory” he thinks Obama shares.

“There are three seats in the Zionist pantheon, to mix paganism and Judaism for a minute,” he said. “There’s [Theodore] Herzl, who thought up the idea of modern Zionism; there’s [David] Ben-Gurion, who took Herzel’s idea and made it concrete, turned it into a state; and that third seat is still empty. That’s the person who makes Israel a permanent entity with permanent borders and recognition of its neighbors.”

Goldberg said that historic role was to be played by Yitzhak Rabin and then by Ariel Sharon. Neither fully achieved it and both of their careers ended early, with Rabin slain and Sharon falling into an eight-year long coma before passing away this year.

Goldberg said that, several years ago, Obama thought Netanyahu would leave the stage for Justice Minister Tzipi Livni. But “Obama’s thinking about [Netanyahu] has shifted to a remarkable degree, not about his politics, but about his staying power.”

“In this interview” with Obama, the president was both “boxing [Netanyahu] in” and “also bucking him up,” Goldberg explained. Paraphrasing Obama on Netanyahu, Goldberg said, “You’re the man, you’re the only one, you’re the guy,” to reach an historic accord with the PA.

Goldberg described the dynamics between U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and Obama as a “good cop, bad cop” approach to propel the peace talks to the framework agreement.

He described Kerry as being “really indefatigable” in pushing the process forward, and his approach, which has been to note down all of Netanyahu’s concerns and try to resolve them one by one: Jordan River Valley security, recognizing a Jewish state, he began to list.

Goldberg also saw the harsher comments from the U.S. as a way to signal to the PA that Israel is also under pressure to make the deal, and that the U.S. is not simply taking Israel’s side.

He added that neither the Israeli nor PA negotiators have leaked details of the proposed framework agreement, jokingly saying he saw that as “the miracle in this.”

He did note that he had been told, via a second or third-hand source, how one of Kerry’s parries made Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas “very upset.” The proposal was to extend the boundaries of East Jerusalem into an adjoining suburb so Israel could maintain the unity of Jerusalem while the PA could say its capital was part of the city.

On the question of whether the PA would recognize the Jewish state in a deal, Goldberg said it was “unrealistic” to expect them to give up their narrative in the opening round. To acknowledge that Jews are also from there would be to void the position of Yasser Arafat’s Palestinian Liberation Organization, the precursor to the PA, “that Israel is a colonial enterprise.”

“You can’t be a colonial enterprise if you are returning home,” Goldberg said.

On Iran, Goldberg said that Israel’s position, demanding “complete capitulation” to dismantle its nuclear program, was unlikely compared to a growing consensus for a status quo where Iran is perpetually six to eight months away from nuclear breakout.

He said that after backtracking on his “red line” for using military force in Syria, Obama’s threats to use military force against Iran are now being seen as toothless.

“I’m not bluffing, all options on the table, I got Israel’s back,” Goldberg paraphrased Obama saying, but that threat now seems hollow. He said that even “our Arab allies don’t really believe Obama would ever use force.”

“In fact, America’s adversaries are not scared of America’s president,” Goldberg said. “Do you really think they think you’re tough?… What does [Syrian President] Bashar al Assad have to do to his people before provoking any kind of American military response?”

With two and a half years left in his presidency, Goldberg listed Obama’s foreign policy achievements and pointed to how he might try to focus on checking the boxes on his list: killing Osama Bin Laden; pulling out of Iraq; if he can, removing all chemical weapons from Syria; and, even as Obama, himself, said the odds were just 50-50, to secure a nuclear agreement with Iran.

Resolving the PA’s claims against the Jewish state would be “the big enchilada” because of all the time and energy spent by previous U.S. presidents and world leaders to create a lasting peace in Israel, Goldberg said.

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  • Otto Waldmann in Sydney

    From where I’m sitting, Down Under, it is simply amazing that you yankee blokes may reveal astounding “secrets’ about your political leaders, most details which would render any of the groisse machers, noch in the White House, massive national traitors. From aligning themselves with known anti-American proscribed entities to mere jihadists, Hamas tools, one gets the impression that your countless security agencies trusted to keep Amerike safe and sound, would be chiefly concerned with ensuring that no jay-walkin’ occurs on Broadway. To me mind, Hillary Clinton being a patsy for Hamas is like being conclusively confident that Barack Obama is, in fact, Osama ben Laden’s Son-in-law or, why not, twin brother and they did, in fact, have a tiff over “who’s on foyst”, hence the Pako job.
    For what it’s worth, YOUR next il Presidente will be some redneck Republican whose name escapes me now and who will kick proper the pro-palestinian derriers. Happy now !!!

    • Otto Waldmann in Sydney

      My very last indulgement on this topic.
      Can we call this episode “The Goldberg Variations on a Tone-Deaf Middle-Eastern Theme ” !!!

  • E Pluribus Wombat

    As a lifetime water carrier for Obama, Jeffrey is the only person so far who thinks this is veiled at all. But it’s the best spin he can put on it given what it actually is. Of course even if we all survive Obama, if Hillary is President she’s no better and in some ways worse because she doesn’t even try to hide her PLO and Muslim Brotherhood connections in this country.

    • Dan

      @Wombat You took the words out of my mouth. Goldberg is on the Jewish left and his years at the Atlantic prove it. Those stripes never change. He’s also a careerist who needs to appear “fair and balanced” now that he and his ego are trying to make it in the Big-time MSM. My instincts tell me he’s grooming himself for a seat next to Friedman at the NYT – where Goldberg can push the Grey Lady’s anti-Zionist agenda and do some real damage.

  • R

    Israel’s tiny area of living space forces one to continually as: WHY are the Arabs so much in dire need of this tiny strip pf land? It’s too small to be of any use for the millions of Arabs who continue clamoring for it. Maybe the real reason and utimate truth simply: Arabs hate Jews, and never mind asking why; the answer is simple: Arabs hate Jews BECAUSE Arabs are TAUGHT TO HATE JEWS.


    • Avrumeleh

      Well, I’m not so sure. Hillary Clinton is a very cagey politician. She has no principals and once the unusual and odd presidential Israel-bashing is gone with the end of Obama’s second term his inevitable failure will have been a learning experience for her. She will hardly be enthusiastic to make an attempt to yet once again take up the cause of the peace-hating anti-Semitic Palestinians and expose herself to the same inevitable failure that Obama will suffer at the end of his experiment in futility of getting the Palestinians to give up on their quest to end Israel’s existence. And, an increasingly pro-Israel populace in America and in the US Congress will not go along easily with still another effort to throw Israel to the dogs. So, while she ain’t gettin’ my vote, I’m not too concerned with her.

      As for Goldberg…who really cares about his assessment? What Obama said is really the issue, isn’t it? Imagine….Obama saying that he can’t “defend Israel in the same way,” meaning, one has to guess…like in the old days when supporting Israel’s existence was the right thing to do. And, to whom is this pathetic little boy/president talking about when he says “defend Israel?” Is it the EU with its indefatigable left-wing pro-Palestinian obsession? Is it Russia or China with their eagerness to support and apologize for Assad and the Mullahs in Iran? Is it the Arab League that has done everything conceivable to destroy Israel to the point of keeping Jews from competing in sporting events? This Obama is an extremist and any supporter of Israel that voted for him…ever…should be a bit ashamed by now.

      • allan

        Kol Hakavod !

  • Otto Waldmann in Sydney

    Jeff Goldberg is full of paraphrases and his own opinions and very poor in terms of the meat on the bone. As a reporter one expects him to offer tachles not his precious takes on a situation of the most intense dymanism.
    What if his comprehension is insuficient and Obama pretends to be tough and uggly on Israel to stretch the time and endurance of a palestinian mob completely unacceptable at this juncture as a “peace” negotiating party. I may believe that USA is taking a self-serving path of distancing in apearance from the necessary intransigent Israeli position simply because the same USA believes that Israel and Israel alone should decide what and IF anything may be concluded with a palestinian entity, right now, however, UNWORTHY of any concessions and/or formal State recognition. It follows that, untill such time that the comprehesive ethos of a neighbour of Israel comes to terms with civilised statal behaviour, there will be NO such a State.
    Meanwhile, the circus goes on….. Obama is the ring master and guess what , Jeff is trusted to wear that big red nose and those huge shoes.

  • David Smith

    Jeffery Goldberg may have a talent for turning a phrase, but as an intellectually honest journalist, he is about as disingenuous as the subject of his interview. When he says:

    “It’s not that the gloves are coming off, it’s that the mask of diplomatic language is coming off”… “how Israel is going to cease to be a Jewish democracy at a certain point” and “how he’s having a harder time defending Israel in international organizations,”

    his take, like that of Obama, himself, is lightweight and transparent. Obama is purportedly having a hard time defending Israel because his own policies, geopolitical maneuverings, pressures and underminings of the only county-sized Jewish state in the world has created the very international atmosphere which is husbanding the global resurgence of cultural and state sponsored antisemitism.

    • Michael Dixon

      President Obama became elected president through a very disciplined use of numbers, statistics, and funds-his largest backer being a well known opponent of Zionism. Part of the president’s discipline is always limiting his message and agenda to what the statistics indicate is possible at the moment. However, I believe there is an emerging narrative that Obama would like to deploy the authoritarian state to promote the interests of his real constituents, and an anti-Semitic state authority would be particularly welcome.

  • Dov

    I have this feeling that after the next round of US elections, Obama is going to come down real hard on the Jews! We will prevail ONLY if we don’t give in, otherwise, he will go to the end…

  • Avrumeleh

    How angry I was when Obama gratuitously initiated this Kerry-nonsense. Here’s a President with a fatalistic credo of America’s role in the world. His pathetic weak-kneed approach to the insane mullahs and ayatollahs in bloodthirsty Iran and his idiotic backtracking from his self-declared “Red Line” in Syria are typical of his incompetence. But pressuring Israel when Gaza continues to be ruled by a Hamas that will never go along with anything negotiated (Ha!) by Abbas is nothing less than open hostility to Israel’s plain and legitimate interests. The entire enterprise is really nothing more than open hostility towards Israel in the guise of “helping a friend despite itself.” What arrogance! I consoled myself from the beginning with the thought that Abbas would sooner make a peace and recognize Israel as a sovereign state than he would become a ticket-seller at Disneyland. That remains true today and all the Israel-bashing that Obama and Kerry can dish out won’t change that. Netanyahu’s roll can’t be defined by Obama. Right now all he has to do is be a good dancer.

  • Having a self-imposed climax for a “framework agreement” between Israel and Arabs is folly. Attempting to ram a so-called peace treaty down Israel’s throat won’t happen on President Obama’s watch. As long as Arabs refuse to recognize Israel as a Jewish nation, there will be no peace agreement, ipso facto.

  • Rick

    I cant believe anyone defends Obama’s comments. they have been the most damaging words against the state of Israel. With all the money pouring into Israel from American corporations, how can Obama ask for its self destruction? if not an antisemite, what possible agenda can Obama have that makes any sense?
    Good advise, lets wait out the 30 months left, but will feel like an eternity.

  • martin

    What a bunch of bull!..Obama sees Israel as a problematic he is mildly anti-Semitic and wants to put those cheeky Jews in their place…Some one ought to really tell that blow hard where to go.

  • Jess

    It is worse than disengenuous for Obama to suggest that Israel need toe a US line to achieve peace in the Mideast, instead of worse treatment & isolation from the international community. Any reasonably objective individual understood without doubt that there was going to be no successful resolution between the Palestinians and the Israelis over the issues of differences at this point in time, before this latest in a series of shams began. Repeating little Oslos over and over, and expecting something better to come forth is a fool’s errand. The road map to real peace precludes the establshment of an official palestinian state, an entity that those who allow themselves to see and hear realistically understand would be a death knell for the young and revived amid the unthinkable ashes of the martyrs of the holocaust- Jewish Homeland.

    Jews have one tiny nation of their own on earth. Tiny beyond compare. Arabs and Muslims have untold billions of hectares, more land to place their people than all the woods of Canada, all the icy area of the arctic continents combined. Arabs, and the angry unforgiving Palestinian people should never be given, should give up asking for, even one building of Jewish land in the insignificantly tiny State of Israel, surrounded by a billion Arabs, a trillion petrodollars, and the means of building homes for each Pali who cries reparations.

    The Jews kicked out of Spain, forced from every Arab nation under the sun, leaving their wealth and fleeing for their lives, never asked for reparations. They built new lives in a Homeland for which they have had to fight in every year since it was founded. The Arab people who left in response to the call by Arabdom, fully expected their invading armies to defeat the nascent tiny Jewish State and return victorious to a land made Juderein by the sword. They will remain disappointed forever, just as this remains their united goal.

    In a just world, Israel should be given more land, and those Palestinians who live in ‘disputed’ areas, or who might wish to return, should peaceably resettle eleswhere. There is no place within the borders of Israel where the state cannot build for her own. And no place in the Arab world where those of Islamic practice and fairh may not settle to their ultimate more fulfilling greater contentment.

    Peace will come only when the Palestinians give up their false claims to any and all of Israel, and the larger Arab world takes them in as their brothers without looking back, nor holding any hatred nor vitriol in their hearts, towards their cousins by Abraham, the Jewish people.

    • Mel

      Nice Xian take, but your Pals, like the rest of the Stone Age Arabian hell are not Xians, but Muslims, savages that kill each other for sport whenever not slaughtering infidels as a religious duty.

      • Harry Lee

        Your reply to Jess’s post is right on as is Jess. These people haven’t advanced their culture in a civilized manner for hundreds of years and I don’t have much faith that they will either. Any parents who can sacrifice their children for the atrocious and obscene purposes and ideals they follow along with other innocent men, women, and children should be removed from this planet.

      • Thelight

        Jewish Americans just slay me, as if they are not americans, Jeff Goldberg is no different, how in the hell do you critize YOUR President for another country? The first time you’re in trouble if you go over there, you’d be SCREAMING! I’m an AMERICAN! Please mind your own damn business

  • artcohn

    For all of his interviews, Jeffrey Goldberg does not understand the problems of attaining real peace between the Palestinian Arabs and Israel. Israel wants to live in peace and security for its citizens, While the prime goal of the Palestinian Arabs is the destruction, or at least,the dissolution of Israel. Until all of the Palestinian Arabs change their prime goal, there won’t be peace. Obama and Kerry should be concentrating their efforts on convincing the Palestinian Arabs to drop their prime goal.

  • Yale

    Here are some questions I wish Goldberg had posed to Obama:

    1. What is the basis for negotiating with Mahmud Abbas, given that a) he remains in office well after his term has expired, b) it is unsafe for him to go to half of his putative country, and c) his own party is trying to force him out of office?

    2. What remedies does he offer if (or perhaps when) the Palestinians violate the terms of whatever agreement Kerry manages to obtain?

    3. Will Israel have the right to defend itself against attacks from Gaza under the terms of his proposed solution? Will his Palestinian state have the right to object if it does?

    4. If you (meaning Obama) don’t have the courage to stand up against the Europeans and Arab League when they are wrong now, how will the establishment of a Palestinian state change that?

    5. Is there anything that a Muslim state might do to Jews and/or Christians that would warrant US force against it?

    6. If you don’t have answers to these questions, why did you pursue a resumption of the negotiations?

    • Yale, excellent questions for Obama. I doubt he would be very specific in answering any of them.

  • Steve Klein

    I believe President Obama is anti-Semitic, if not more so like his twenty year spiritual mentor, Jeremiah Wright.

  • J

    Ignore the evil bastard.Hope that God destroys him.

  • I’m 80 years old, and if I could, I would spend the rest of my life in Israel. And be part of a great country. Time moves on and I can’t go back, so all I can do is spend my time in prayer for the Apple of Gods Eye, “ISRAEL”

    • MR. COFFMAN:




    • Harry Lee

      Bill, I am 77 yrs. old, was raised a Catholic and turned non-denominational in my twenties. I am a Gentile and not of the Jewish faith, but have prayed and still do for this Blessed Nation and will continue to do so as I believe Israel is “The Apple of God’s Eye”. I would like you and other Jews to know this and to realize we Americans are all not like these idiots.

  • M.A. Kinamohn

    There is only one state and it will continue to be only one state, The Jewish State! To hell with the muslim world and all that want the Jewish State to go away.

  • Michael Garfinkel

    Obama has thirty more months?

    My advice to the Israel: wait the son-of-a-bitch out.

    • Cinci Jew

      We survived Pharaoh and we’ll survive this Muslim mongrel. Obama is helping the Iranians and other radical Islamic organizations especially ones who act against Israel but Hashem will prevail over their so called allah.

    • Kris Kristian


      Can Israel wait that long for that SOB to end his term as POTUS?
      Between Obama and Kerry, Israel is in trouble.
      Obama wants Israel to disappear.

      Why is he so keen to help his Muslim bretheren by destroying the only Jewish state.

      Without Israel, the world would have been the poorer. Without the advancement in medicine, Agriculture, technology etc. it would have taken the world back a good few years.

      Kerry in his stupidity, has given Abbas the upper hand. Why should that Arafat in a suit give one inch whan Kerry gives him all the support he needs?
      Kerry could have forced Abbas to make peace and recognise Israel as THE JEWISH STATE.
      Obama is sending billions of USD to the PA. What are they doing with that money?
      Buying weapons to kill Jews.
      And pocketing the money to build big palaces for them selves and increasing their personal wealth.

      Stop sending the PA any money.
      tell them that they MUST make peace without and demands.

      They should have told Abbas that Israel must not release any Mulsim killers of Jews.
      But what does that terrorist leader do?
      He calls those bastards “HEROES ” for murdering a mother and her children.

      That is the sick mind of the terrorists.
      Obama and Kerry should have warned Abbas not to glorify mass killers of Jews, or else there would be no support for those swines.

      Obama and Kerry have caused more trouble for the Jewish state, than any Arab could have.

      They could have used history to tell Abbas & Co., that there never was a PA state in history. That all the land was given to the Jews by G-D.

      By failing to tell the terrorists the truth, they have created more terror and hate.

      I pray that Israel can hold out the 30 months remaining.

      But then I blame the US Jews who voted for this imposter. They could have helped Israel by bringing Mitt Romney as POTUS.
      The senario would have been totally different.
      Romney is not a lover of the Arabs.
      He is a man who values the truth.

      Lets see if the US Jews will stop supporting the DEms and vote in a supporter of Israel, not Clinton, nor Kerry.

      • Harry Lee

        Amen and Amen!

  • Bernard Ross

    Obama made NOT ONE foreign policy achievement in all his years in office. He is characterized with failure and incompetency. Killing bin ladin and pulling out of iraq are not foreign policy achievement and furthermore Bush was already pulling out and he used Bush’s man gates to finish. Many think bin Ladin was already dead and that Seal team 6 was assassinated to keep them quiet.

  • yussi

    How can you possibly negotiate with people who refuse to recognize your right to exsist.???It s a sham!!and our President has to recognize it as such and cease pressuring Israel..

  • Bob jackson

    It is not a peace process, but a Palestinian state process.
    Lasting peace in Israel? Not even close. They are just using peace as a cover word for a Palestinian state.

  • Lloyd Bloom

    Goldberg evidently buys into a 2-state solution. Whatever his observations are, he is thinking in a box, and hoping for some deal to be shoved down Israel’s throat. But it’s not going to happen, because it will be suicide for the Jewish state. It is about time that Netanyahu stops dancing for the American Administration and its long term policy that’s bent on fixing the Palestinian problem by splitting Israel in 2, eliminating Israel as a viable state. Instead it’s time to admit that the 2-state solution is the problem, and that, as the 1 state, Israel, in the words of Caroline Glick, is the only acceptable solution.

    • Sonia Willats

      Yes, I greatly respect and appreciate Caroline Glick’s work and sentiments. I also know and believe that the Jewish state, within the borders shown to Abraham in Genesis, is the state that will finally come into being. All who work against it will pass by into the sands to eternity, even citizen Barry, which is what citizen BHO really is. It is folly to fly in the face of the living G-d. Prophecy is full of warnings about those who mess with Jerusalem in the end times ‘… shall become a cup of trembling..’ If only one could believe that Obama and Kerry mean well…

      OBAMA, by demonstrating that he has no-one’s back – not the Syrian people, not Ukraine means that the ‘carrot’ of protecting Israel from Iran has fallen to the ground. All that remains to force Israel is BDS, and they will continue to push this. But Israel will survive this too, and protect her own back.

  • Chris Rettenmoser

    Obama is already a lame duck and he will achieve NOTHING during the rest of his sorry term !

    • Thelight

      @Chris Rettenmoser, how many of those “wonderful presidents were so great to where this country is not in debt to China of all places and killing the enviroment because greed, but oh let’s not forget they weren’t Obama.