In the early days of his administration, President Barack Obama had a theory about Israel. “It was a wrong theory of the case,” says longtime diplomat Martin Indyk, but a theory nonetheless: If the president could put distance between the United States and Israel, then just maybe he could build up credibility with the Arab world — and ultimately be in a better position to help Israel negotiate for peace.

But here’s where things went wrong, says Indyk, a U.S. ambassador to Israel during the Clinton administration, and from 2013 to 2014 a special envoy for Israeli-Palestinian negotiations: “After 16 years of Clinton and Bush, of unalloyed affection, the Israelis really didn’t like that.” The theory cost Obama support among Israelis, which meant he couldn’t move the Israeli public, says Indyk, “and if he couldn’t move the Israelis, then the Arabs had no use for him.”

In the below interview, Indyk says that the fallout today can be seen in everything from the stalled peace process and last year’s negotiations over the Iran nuclear agreement, to the president’s fractious relationship with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu — who the former ambassador says was “essentially written off” by Obama after his 2012 reelection. FULL REPORT