White House Escalates Secret Media War Against Israel

Obama administration continues to bash Israel over peace process

Secretary of State John Kerry and Middle East envoy Martin Indyk / AP
May 8, 2014

Senior Obama administration officials have escalated a secret media war to discredit Israel in the press, providing highly critical anonymous quotes and negative information about the Jewish state in a bid to blame it for the recent collapse of peace talks with the Palestinians.

Multiple sources in both the United States and Israel confirmed to the Washington Free Beacon that Middle East envoy Martin Indyk again served as the anonymous source for a recent interview in the Israeli press that lambasted Israel, blamed it for the failure of peace talks, and predicted that Israel needs to face another wave of Palestinian terrorism before it will make peace.

Indyk was first identified by the Free Beacon as the anonymous source for a series of anti-Israel stories planted by the Obama administration in April.

The targeted leaks have sparked anger among top officials in Jerusalem who believe that Israel is being attacked with unfair and negative press stories while the Palestinian side escapes blame from the Obama administration, according to these sources.

"There was a general ban on leaks, and it was more or less enforced," said one senior official with a leading pro-Israel group. However, "Indyk and his team were the exception."

"The result was that you had this constant stream of anti-Israel talking points from anonymous U.S. officials and nothing to balance them out. The Israelis would go to the Americans and ask them to correct the record, and the Americans would refuse—because of the prohibition against leaking!" the source said.

The Obama administration’s latest attempt to discredit Israel behind a facade of anonymous quotes came in a wide-ranging interview that two unnamed officials gave to Israeli reporter Nahum Barnea.

Multiple sources in the United States and Israel identified Indyk as one of Barnea’s key sources.

A State Department spokeswoman declined to speculate on who the sources of the article might be when approached by the Free Beacon and stated that both the Israelis and Palestinians deserve blame for the collapse of peace talks.

Indyk, a longtime Middle East hand and peace negotiator, has for years personally disliked Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, according to these sources.

"It’s been going on for many years," said one former Israeli diplomat, referring to Indyk’s leaks to the press. "He was defending the Palestinians. That is a long time story. His antipathy to Netanyahu is also a very long story. It’s not recent. It goes back years."

Indyk has enjoyed a long relationship with reporter Barnea and has used those ties to leak stories critical of Israel and Netanyahu, the source said.

Barnea has been publicly close to Indyk since at least 2006, when he was selected as a top speaker on a closed-door panel sponsored by the Brookings Institution’s Saban Center, where Indyk has long served as the director when working outside of the government.

Barnea also was given a chance to interview former President Bill Clinton during a 2009 event hosted by the Saban Center.

In 2011, Barnea went to Indyk’s Saban Forum and then quoted unnamed American officials referring to Netanyahu as "the N-word."

"Indyk has long made a practice of essentially buying the loyalty of Israeli reporters by giving them free trips and cushy speaking gigs," said the senior official who works for a pro-Israel group. "Then he turns around and anonymously uses those journalists to attack diplomats and leaders he perceives as enemies."

"He couldn’t do any of it without cash from Haim Saban, who endowed the Saban Center where Indyk was the director, or, more recently, from Qatar, which has been pumping huge amounts of money into the Brookings Institution."

State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf declined to speculate on the article’s sourcing, but told the Free Beacon that both the Israelis and Palestinians share the blame for talks failing.

"As we’ve said publicly numerous times, both sides took steps that hurt the ability of the talks to move forward," Harf said. "And it is totally inaccurate to say the secretary wanted to blame one side or the other."

Israeli government sources in recent days have released private documents showing that the Palestinians had been planning to "thwart" the peace process long before talks officially collapsed.

Other recent stories in the U.S. press have focused on attempts by Israel to spy on America.

Newsweek published a lengthy expose earlier this week on what it claimed to be Israel’s attempts to steal technological trade secrets from the United States.

"We’ve had this pop up every few years," said the former Israeli diplomat, explaining that U.S. officials typically leak these stories to distract from the peace process and smear Israel.

"The stuff Newsweek ran, I’ve seen this stuff repeated four of five times over the last decade," said the source. "It’s almost as if there’s a file drawer somewhere in the basement of the State Department where someone calls a bureaucrat and says, ‘Pull out all the Israeli misdeeds.’"

The thinking in the State Department is, "If there’s a chink in Israel’s armor let’s pull this stuff out," the source said.

Published under: Israel , State Department