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Netanyahu releases election campaign ad criticising Obama over Palestine

Footage shows Israeli PM at White House lecturing visibly annoyed US president over occupied Palestinian territories
Then-US President Barack Obama meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at White House (AFP/file photo)

As Israel’s 9 April elections draw closer, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s campaign released a one-minute video online in which he publicly criticises former US President Barack Obama to his face over the occupied Palestinian territories.

The English-language clip, posted on Netanyahu’s official Facebook and Twitter pages, shows the Israeli prime minister telling an angry-looking Obama that “Israel obviously cannot be asked to negotiate with a government that is backed by the Palestinian version of al-Qaida”.

“We cannot go back to the 1967 lines because these lines are indefensible,” he adds in the clip, which is not dated.

It also includes testimonies from Obama staffers and journalists – taken from a PBS segment – who expressed surprise at Netanyahu’s comments.

“I have never seen a foreign leader speak to the president like that, and certainly not in public, and I’ve never - certainly never seen it happen in the Oval Office,” said Ben Rhodes, a White House staffer during Obama’s tenure.

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“You’re watching President Obama there with his face in his hand, and you can tell it’s not going over well. This is his house, and to be lectured in his office rankles,” New York Times reporter Peter Baker said.

The campaign ad aims to shore up support for Netanyahu’s right-wing base, and the prime minister has used his cosy relationship with current US President Donald Trump to his benefit, Haaretz reported on Thursday.

Netanyahu, under threat of indictment for corruption, is facing a tough challenge from a centrist political alliance led by former military chief of staff Benny Gantz and ex-finance minister Yair Lapid.

The alliance's centrist positions and its security credentials - it includes three former military chiefs of staff - have helped it beat back Netanyahu's claims that its leaders are "weak" leftists.

In mid-March, Netanyahu said Israel "was not a state of all its citizens" in a reference to the country's Palestinian population.

The prime minister, in comments on Instagram, went on to say all citizens, including Arabs, had equal rights, but referred to a deeply controversial law passed last year declaring Israel the nation-state of the Jewish people.

"Israel is not a state of all its citizens," Netanyahu wrote.

"According to the basic nationality law we passed, Israel is the nation-state of the Jewish people - and only it,” he said at the time.

Netanyahu has been accused of demonising Palestinian citizens of Israel (often referred to as Israeli Arabs), who make up about 17.5 percent of the population, ahead of April polls in a bid to boost right-wing turnout.

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