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Angry words have been supposedly flung back and forth between Jerusalem and Washington. Barack Obama reportedly said at his meeting with Jewish leaders that Israel would have to "to engage in serious self-reflection" about Middle East peace. Benjamin Netanyahu reportedly called Rahm Emanuel and David Axelrod, Obama's senior aides, 'self-hating Jews.' Accusation followed accusation, resulting in a great deal of bitterness and a supposedly widening gap.

The Obama administration supposedly summoned Israel's Ambassador Oren for a dressing down abut settlement policy. Angry Op-Eds were written. Thomas Friedman offered "marriage counseling. Everyone offered an opinion.

Evidently however, according to a JTA report, none of it ever really happened. The much talked-about tiff Many of the reports come from the pen of a single correspondent, Barak Ravid, at a single newspaper, Ha'aretz. Jewish Telegraphic Agency was unable to find a single attendee at the meeting who remembered Obama saying Israel would have to engage in serious self-reflection. Nobody heard Benjamin Netanyahu make the remark about self-hating Jews, either. Ambassador Oren stated that he was never "summoned." However, remarks were made at his initial "get to know you" meeting and subsequently via a phone call. Summoning an ambassador is a very serious move indeed.

Barak Ravid stands by his stories. He insists that the quotes came from "reliable sources." Regarding the "scoldings" of Ambassador Oren, he said, "There is no dispute about the fact that twice in two weeks, the Israeli ambassador in Washington received harsh complaints about Israeli policy in east Jerusalem from very senior officials in the U.S. government." But evidently there is no dispute either that the ambassador was never summoned except in Ravid's imagination. Ravid surely understands the singular significance of summoning an ambassador. That's what he reported, but it never happened. In the Bush administration too, there were constant disagreements with Israel over building in and around Jerusalem. Then as now, the ambassador was not summoned.

Yoram Peri, director of the Gildenhorn Center for Israeli Studies at the University of Maryland, speculated that some conservative members of the Israeli government may be trying to manipulate the tension that has arisen over the settlement dispute by leaking stories to portray a more dire situation. Were that true, they more likely would have channeled their leaks through the Jerusalem post or Arutz-7, rather than the dovish Ha'aretz.

Officials on both sides insist the reports do not portray reality:

Israeli and U.S. officials say stories that inaccurately portray the situation are not much of a problem.

"These are simply bumps in the road," said White House spokesman Tommy Vietor.

An Israeli government spokesman called the disputed reports "a nuisance," but said "they don't have any kind of effect on the relationship."

"The relationship is strong and good and warm," the spokesman said. "It appears that there are elements that would like to see it otherwise, but it's not affecting the good discussions we're having."

They could hardly be expected to say anything else. Nonetheless, it seems the so-called "gap" should be treated with a bit of healthy skepticism.

Ami Isseroff


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