You probably had one of the most difficult jobs a human being can handle!
It was challenging at times, but it was also the job of a lifetime, and I wouldn’t have missed it for anything.
There have been many ambassadors from the United States to Israel and vice versa. But if the relationship between the two countries during the Obama administration was truly as bad as Israeli Ambassador Michael Oren described it, then your tenure must have been fraught with difficulties.
There were disagreements—some of them very public, some of them personal and some of a political nature, and that did create challenging moments. I don’t want to suggest in any way that they didn’t occur. However, the narrative that describes the eight years of Obama and Netanyahu’s overlapping terms as a low point in US-Israel relations, or one that was characterized primarily by those disagreements, is incorrect and was not my experience. The disagreements were real, but there was extraordinary security cooperation between our military and intelligence services during this period as well.
There was also extensive diplomatic coordination to deal with the challenges stemming from the instability in the Arab world, as well as numerous shared goals—such as preventing an Iranian nuclear weapon, combating terrorism throughout the region and protecting Israel from unfair international criticism. Our economic relationship was also dramatically expanded, as were the technologies that were developed to make each other safer, such as missile defense, tunnel detection, and the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) that was signed in the fall of 2016. All of these advances and examples of a strengthened relationship took place during this period, and were derived from decisions that Prime Minister Netanyahu and President Obama made together. So I don’t accept the description of this relationship as being exclusively negative. It was complex and there were disagreements, but there was tremendous progress as well, as seen in the results.
It still seemed as if there was a cooling off of America’s emotional commitment to Israel under Obama. Would you agree that there was a certain degree of inconsistency, an almost paradoxical relationship?