BLOG 246 March 30, 2015
American-Israeli relationships have hit bottom. This week’s claim that Israel spied on the American-Iranian nuclear negotiations dumped another truck load of rocks on Netanyahu’s racist claims that barely won his re-election followed by a 24-hour flip flop on a two state resolution with the Palestinians. At the heart of the conflict is a collision between the American President and the Prime Minister of Israel.
What’s going on?
I have consistently attempted to stand above partisan politics in examining the Middle East. When it comes to explaining these two men –it’s tough! On one side are either Obama-haters or Obama-lovers pitched against multitudes who idolize everything that happens in Israel. Hopefully, I can get my readers to avoid any subjective perspectives and focus on the facts. So, why the traumatic collision?
Israelis tend to see Obama retreating from world leadership and withdrawing soldiers that ends in a vacuum filled by jihadists. Putin seized Crimea because of Obama’s failure to keep his threat in Syria that made Obama look like a paper tiger. They see Obama as a ‘80s progressive not to be trusted in handling Iran. His positions on the Middle East are seen as confused and contradictory. The Arabs are now forming their own army because they do not believe America can be trusted to stand with them against Iran.
On the other hand, Netanyahu is viewed as a liar that can’t be trusted to keep his word. In 2009 under intense American pressure, Netanyahu instigated a 10-month freeze on Jewish settlements in the West Bank. However, during the “freeze” 1,175 units were completed and 114 more were started. All in all, the Netanyahu government oversaw construction of 6,867 units in settlement areas, 2,622 were deep in Palestinian territory. Critics in Israel noted that the $1 billion in illegal settlements could have been better spent to fight Israeli rising housing costs. America and Europe concluded he reneged on his promise and you don’t do that with Allies.
Behind such a “switching the checkers” deal, the Netanyahu politics have offered verbal deceit, talking of peace while torpedoing any two-state solution with the Palestinians. His stringent opposition to a nuclear arms treaty with Iran is seen as fundamentally wanting no deal on any terms with the Iranians. Regardless! His attempt to scuttle the negotiations is now suspect in Washington because he has overstated his oppositions hoping that Americans will not see through the smoke screen.
A week after the cease-fire during the Gaza war, Israel seized 1,000 acres in the West Bank for Israeli settlers. Peace Now, an Israeli group, called this the biggest land grab in over 30 years. The Netanyahu government would claim they were teaching the terrorist a lesson. The international community’s response was that’s not the legal way to teach a lesson.
The flip-flop on a two-state solution was viewed as a last minute attempt to save his election that worked in Israel and resulted in a re-evaluation in Washington of how relations between the two countries would be managed in the future. Not good for Netanyahu’s government nor Israel. A United Nations resolution would set a time table for withdrawal from Palestinians territories, a Palestinian state within 1967 borders, and East Jerusalem as their capital – all defeats for Netanyahu and Israel.
Will matters between Washington and Israel improve? Probably not until Netanyahu is gone. At this point, he probably will not be trusted again by the powers in Washington and Europe.
A most sad situation.