Saturday, July 03, 2010

Obama - Israel gulf is immense

From the National Post · Friday, Jul. 2, 2010, by Peter Goodspeed (my emphasis added. SL): Tuesday’s meeting in Washington between Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and U.S. President Barack Obama ...aims to rebuild trust. ...It could be a tall order. The gulf separating the two sides is immense.

Israeli leaders, fearing for their country’s very existence, are reluctant to trust anyone, including the Americans, and won’t be rushed into a peace deal with the Palestinians, while Washington suddenly fears its failure to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian problem is harming its strategic interests.

The last time the two leaders met, in March, Mr. Netanyahu was treated to the diplomatic equivalent of a trip to the woodshed and U.S.-Israeli relations plunged to their lowest level in decades....Mr. Obama refused to have his meeting with Mr. Netanyahu photographed and didn’t bother to mark the occasion with a formal statement afterwards.

Later, it was learned the U.S. leader presented Mr. Netanyahu with a list of 13 demands for rebuilding confidence in the peace process and abruptly left him to peruse the points while he went for dinner with his family. “I’m still around,” he allegedly said. “Let me know if there is anything new.”

While some American pundits fumed, accusing Mr. Obama of treating Mr. Netanyahu like an unsavory Third World dictator, the Israeli news media anxiously wondered if Israel’s relationship with Washington was permanently damaged.

... Mr. Netanyahu’s brother-in-law, Hagi Ben Artzi, fanned the flames of the crisis telling an Israeli talk-radio show, “There is an anti-Semitic president in America."

... Mr. Obama’s support among Jews, both at home and in Israel, has been plummeting, as anxieties soar over apparent U.S. attempts to make a settlement of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict — not the relationship with Israel — a core U.S. national security interest.

“We consider Obama’s actions an affront and an insult to all Jews in America and Israel,” said Morton Klein, president of the Zionist Organization of America. “This administration is hostile to Israel. Period. Over the past 18-months there has been a dramatic shift in the U.S.-Israel relationship, including harsh, repeated criticism of Israel.”

...While there is still a moral and emotional commitment to Israel, U.S. policy makers are looking beyond their traditional views of the Middle East to lay more stress on resolving the Israeli-Palestinian deadlock.

“With 200,000 American troops committed to two wars in the greater Middle East and the U.S. president leading a major international effort to block Iran’s nuclear program, resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict has become a U.S. strategic imperative,” said Martin Indyk, a former U.S. Ambassador to Israel who is now with the Brookings Institution in Washington. “The President views curbing Iran’s nuclear program and resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict as two sides of the same coin,” Mr. Indyk said. “In order to isolate and pressure Iran, he believes he needs to unite Israelis and Arabs with the rest of the world in a grand international anti-Iranian coalition.”

U.S. Army General David Petraeus made a similar point this spring, when he told the U.S. Senate Armed Services Committee, that “enduring hostilities between Israel and some of its neighbours present distinct challenges to our ability to advance our interests in the [Middle East].” “Arab anger over the Palestinian question limits the strength and depth of U.S. partnerships with governments and peoples [in the region],” Gen. Petraeus said.

Israel needs to be more pragmatic, said Anthony Cordesman, an expert with the Centre for Strategic and International Studies. “It is time Israel realized that it has obligations to the U.S., as well as the U.S. to Israel, and that it becomes far more careful about the extent to which it tests the limits of U.S. patience and exploits the support of American Jews,” Mr. Cordesman said. “Israel should show enough discretion to reflect the fact that it is a tertiary U.S. strategic interest in a complex and demanding world..."
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