Thursday, October 30, 2014

Israel and the US 2014

Jeffrey's Goldberg's article, The Crisis in U.S.-Israel Relations Is Officially Here The Atlantic 10/28/2014, has touched off a number of responses that review the state of relations between the United States and Israel.

Paul Pillar in U.S.-Israeli Relations: Don't Call It a Crisis The National Interest 10/29/2014 makes this observation in connection with the tensions that Goldberg describes:

One can legitimately question some of the particular accusations by the U.S. officials that Goldberg reports, not to mention the scatological and indecorous terminology employed. But to concentrate on this is to overlook the larger and far more important contours of the relationship. The most fundamental truth about the relationship is that, notwithstanding routine references to Israel as an “ally,” it is not an ally of the United States beyond being the recipient of all that U.S. material and political largesse. An ally is someone who offers something comparably significant and useful in return, particularly on security matters. That this is not true of Israel's relationship with the United States is underscored by the priority that the United States has placed, during some of its own past conflicts in the Middle East such as Operation Desert Storm, on Israel not getting involved because such involvement would be a liability, not an asset. [my emphasis in bold]
Chemi Shalev places much of the blame for the current tensions on Bibi Netanyahu (The 'chickenshit' relationship between Obama and Netanyahu Haaretz 10/29/2014):

Netanyahu earned the White House’s ire not for “standing up for Israel’s interests” behind closed doors, as he claims, but for wagging his finger, thumbing his nose and spitting in Obama’s eye while doing so, for the entire world to see. Despite the steady stream of righteous indignation emanating from Netanyahu and his defenders in both Israel and the the past 24 hours, there are very few red lines that the prime minister has not crossed in recent years in his contentious relationship with the American president. ...

Netanyahu has gleefully dissed Obama and his policies, on and off the record, often sounding no different than any rank and file member of the Republican caucus in Congress and regularly flaunting his intimate ties with their mutual benefactor and Obama nemesis, Sheldon Adelson. [my emphasis]
Israeli dove Gideon Levy (Who's the real chickenshit? Haaretz 10/29/2014) places more of the blame on Obama for letting Bibi push him around up until now, writing, "After six years of supporting the Netanyahu government’s moves with money and backing, support in the UN and weapons deliveries, there’s something pathetic and even aggravating about the insults now being hurled at Netanyahu. They seem more like ego games than policy."

Levy also seems to think the possibility of a two-state solution is gone: "Obama let Netanyahu continue building in the settlements, striking the fatal blow to the two-state solution dead."

Pillar makes some objection to the use of "crisis" about the current situation:

... in this context the word crisis is a misnomer. The term usually indicates a potential for a big turn for the worse, especially the outbreak of a war between whatever two parties are experiencing a crisis. That's not what's involved here. The only reason the term crisis comes up regarding U.S.-Israeli relations is the fictional, deliberately inflated view of the relationship as something qualitatively different that ought to defy any of the usual rules that apply to any patron and client or to any bilateral relationship. Sweep aside the politically-driven fiction about two countries that supposedly have everything in common and nothing in conflict and instead deal with reality, and the concept of crisis does not arise at all. What you have instead is a bilateral relationship that is like many others the United States has, with some parallel interests and objectives along with other objectives that diverge - sometimes sharply - and with honest recognition of the latter being a normal part of business.

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