I just want to remind you of an earlier moment when an Israeli prime minister and a U.S. president got into it like this. It was 1981. President Reagan was trying to arrange the sale of AWACS aircraft to Saudi Arabia. Reagan was to meet with Israeli prime minister Menachem Begin in September -- but just prior to this, he sent a warning to Begin:
President Reagan’s special advisor on Jewish affairs, Jacob Stein, is reported to have warned Premier Menachem Begin not to press his luck with Reagan by continuing to try to block the sale of American AWACS planes to Saudi Arabia. Stein was in Israel last week for talks with Begin and Israeli leaders, in apparent preparation for Begin’s visits to Washington for talks with the U.S. President next month.Reagan and Begin met -- and, according to Reagan's post-presidential memoir, An American Life, Begin agreed not to lobby Congress in opposition to the AWACS sale, then did just that:
Israeli papers say that Stein told Begin that Reagan and the U.S. Administration would view a continued Israeli policy to persuade Senators and Congressmen to oppose the aircraft sale as a personal affront to Reagan himself.
Before Reagan ultimately won the fight, unpleasant words were uttered about Israel:
The Reagan Administration actively sought to diminish Israel's voice and influence over the deal. In public speeches, Administration officials admonished Israel for getting involved in a U.S. foreign policy matter. Secretary of State Alexander Haig said the President must be "free of the restraints of overriding external vetoes," and went on to say that were the AWACS deal blocked by Israeli influence, there would be "serious implications on all American policies in the Middle East. ... I'll just leave it there." ...Reagan himself declared, "It is not the business of other nations to make American foreign policy."But Reagan was a god among men, so his dispute with Israel was OK, right?