President Barack Obama called Israeli Prime Minister Bibi Netanyahu on Wednesday from Air Force One to express his personal condolences on the death of his father, Benzion Netanyahu. The president noted Benzion Netanyahu’s remarkable legacy of service to the Jewish people and his deep friendship with the United States.
However, the fact that the call came days after Benzion Netanyahu’s death drew criticism from some American Jews, who even called the delay “typical of the Obama administration” and “insulting.”
Indeed, during the elections year, even condolences might become a political issue. Mitt Romney, former Massachusetts governor and the likely Republican presidential candidate, was one of the first to issue a statement. It read: “I extend my sincere condolences to the family of Benzion Netanyahu. Not only was he the father of my friend Benjamin, the Prime Minister of Israel, and the father of Israel’s hero of the Entebbe raid, Yonatan Netanyahu, he was also a distinguished historian and leader in his own right. This is a loss for all of Israel and for all who care about Israel.”
Some voices in the Jewish community wondered in the past few days whether Obama would do the same. On Tuesday night, at Israel’s 64th Independence Day event held at the embassy, senior advisor to Obama Valerie Jarrett extended her condolences on behalf of the President and his administration. Even though Jarrett also offered her personal condolences, some conservative Jews concluded that “it’s not good enough” and “insulting.”
On Wednesday morning, the White House issued readout of Obama’s call to Prime Minister Netanyahu from Air Force One, on his way back from his unannounced visit to Afghanistan.
And yet for some, it remains too little and too late. On Twitter, the Republican Jewish Coalition asked: “Obama also took three days to get around to it when it was [Turkish President] Erdogan who was bereaved, right?”