Jeb Bush op-ed slams Obama on Netanyahu, Iran

Former Florida governor Jeb Bush speaks during an interview at the 42nd annual Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) February 27, 2015 in National Harbor, Maryland.

Alex Wong, Getty Images

Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush penned a strongly pro-Israel op-ed in a conservative publication Wednesday that slams President Obama's treatment of his ally in the Middle East.

"Israel's elections should be something to celebrate. If only the rest of the region were able to hold peaceful and vibrant multi-party elections," Bush wrote in National Review. "[I]nstead of recognizing Prime Minister Netanyahu's reelection and the achievement of Israel's multi-party, multi-ethnic democracy, the White House issued half-hearted congratulations. Then Obama threatened to downgrade the U.S.-Israel relationship and permit a series of anti-Israel resolutions to pass the United Nations Security Council without firm American opposition."

There's no shortage of criticism for the president's relationship with Israel from the right these days, but Bush has special reason to join in the chorus: One of his foreign policy advisers, former Secretary of State James Baker, recently spoke critically of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu during a conference for J Street, a liberal Israel advocacy organization.

At the conference, Baker said he has been "disappointed" with the lack of progress toward a peace deal between the Israelis and Palestinians for some time. He also said that with regard to Netanyahu's professed desire for peace, "his actions have not matched his rhetoric."

"In the aftermath of Netanyahu's recent election victory, the chance of a two-state solution seems even slimmer, given his reversal on the issue," Baker said.

Bush's team was quick to say that the he did not agree with that assessment. In his op-ed, he went on to accuse the administration of demanding that Israel make concessions to Palestinian leaders to jump start peace negotiations, and of anonymously authorizing insults against Israeli leaders (in an Atlantic article last year, Jeffrey Goldberg quoted a senior administration official calling Netanyahu a profane name). And he criticized the White House for labeling the approval of new apartments in a contested area of east Jerusalem "acts of aggression."

"This is no way to treat an ally. Conducting the foreign policy of a great nation requires maturity and a strategic sense of America's long-term interests. This is no time for schoolyard antics," Bush wrote.

As the Mar. 31 deadline for reaching a nuclear agreement with Iran approaches, Bush criticized Mr. Obama, for pursuing a deal with a country run by leaders who "condemn America," and whom, he said, have "cheated" on previous agreements and acted with "treachery." He wrote, "Instead of projecting American determination and leadership, he has either withdrawn from the stage or chosen to trust our enemies."

The president's persistence in pursuing a deal with Iran, Bush said, is "a reflection of the way Obama has handled a range of foreign-policy matters."

Mr. Obama has said that Netanyahu criticized the nuclear deal without offering another way forward.

"On the core issue, which is, how do we prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon, which would make it far more dangerous and would give it scope for even greater action in the region, the prime minister didn't offer any viable alternatives," the president said after Netanyahu addressed both chambers of Congress earlier this month. "Let's be clear about what exactly the central concern should be both for the United States and for Israel. I have said since before I became president that one of my primary goals in foreign policy would be preventing Iran from getting a nuclear weapon."

Bush concluded that a "fresh approach" in U.S. leadership is required for success in the Middle East, that "rebuilds the friendships we once enjoyed," "reminds our enemies of our determination" and "fundamentally believes that when America leads, the world is more stable and America's security is more certain."

  • Rebecca Kaplan

    Rebecca Kaplan is a political reporter for CBSNews.com.