Tensions between the Obama White House and the Israeli press have been mounting since the Israeli press trashed Secretary of State John Kerry’s ceasefire proposal over the weekend.
Even liberal columnists and reporters in Israel said Kerry’s plan to end the war in Gaza looked like it was written by Hamas leaders.
On Tuesday, it got worse. Israel's Channel One News published a purported transcript of a phone call between President Obama and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu where Obama is portrayed as imposing a ceasefire on Israel.
The White House took the unusual step of denying on the record the report.
“We have seen these reports, and neither the reports nor the alleged transcript bear any resemblance to reality,” said Bernadette Meehan, National Security Council Spokesperson.
The Israeli Prime Minister's office followed suit with a statement on Twitter: "We have seen reports of an alleged POTUS-Netanyahu transcript; neither reports nor alleged transcript bear any resemblance to reality. ... Shocking and disappointing someone would sink to misrepresenting a pvt convo between POTUS and PM in fabrications to Israeli press."
The purported transcript included juicy quotes as well. Netanyahu allegedly said: “Qatar and Turkey are the biggest supporters of Hamas. It’s impossible to rely on them to be fair mediators” about Kerry’s plan to have those two countries mediate the conflict. Obama allegedly responded, “I trust Qatar and Turkey. Israel is not in the position that it can choose its mediators.”
Meehan in her statement said none of it was accurate though. “It’s shocking and disappointing that someone would sink to misrepresenting a private conversation between the President and the Prime Minister in fabrications to the Israeli press,” she said.
While the White House is saying the alleged conversation never happened the way Channel One is reporting it, there is nonetheless real tension between Israel and the U.S. on the ceasefire.
Kerry has worked with Qatar and Turkey to reach out to Hamas in Gaza to get them to stop firing rockets at Israel. Netanyahu in the past has openly complained that Qatar and Turkey are the two main financial and diplomatic sponsors of Hamas.
One of Kerry’s proposals—to have Qatar pay the salaries of Hamas civil servants in Gaza—would reverse longstanding U.S. policy to encourage Qatar to end its financial sponsorship of Hamas.