Did Obama Diss A Grieving Bibi, Or Observe Shiva Etiquette?

It’s no secret that President Barack Obama and Israeli President Benjamin Netanyahu have an icy relationship. So when it took Obama three days to extend condolences on the death of Netanyahu’s father, it raised some eyebrows.

In an exchange on Twitter with other users, The Republican Jewish Coalition quipped "seems like he took his time about it" and asked "3 days doesn't seem like a curiously languid pace to you?" 

The condolence call had been eagerly awaited by Jewish White House watchers since news of the death on Monday morning.

The Israeli newspaper Haaretz quoted one American Jew as saying the delay is “typical of the Obama administration.” And it noted that the presumptive Republican presidential candidate, Mitt Romney, was one of the first to publicly extend condolences. Without mentioning names, Ha'aretz said some conservative American Jews found the delay "insulting."

The White House announced that Obama called Netanyahu from Air Force One Wednesday on the way home from Afghanistan to express his condolences and noted that Netanyahu’s father, Benzion, left a legacy of service to the Jewish people and had a deep friendship with the United States.

Obama has made clear that he is not a Bibi fan. In an exchange with French President Nicolas Sarkozy last fall during the G20 summit in Cannes Sarkozy was heard to say of Netanyahu: “I can't bear to see him any more. He's a liar.”

Obama was then heard to reply: “You may be fed up with him but I have to deal with him every day.” They were unaware that their mikes were live.

Netanyahu also had a famously un-cordial visit to the  White House in 2010 after he announced the approval of new housing construction in east Jerusalem. On that visit, he didn't get a red carpet reception, dinner with the president or even a photo op.

Defending the POTUS, though, was Orthodox blogger Yossi Gestetner, who said that it's Jewish custom for non-family members to wait three days before extending condolences — information Obama could have heard from his Orthodox chief of staff, Jack Lew.

– Adam Dickter contributed to this post.

About the Author
Douglas M. Bloomfield is a syndicated columnist, Washington lobbyist and consultant. He spent nine years as the legislative director and chief lobbyist for AIPAC.