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Sunday, March 14, 2010

Are America and Israel drifting apart?

The Washington Post has a symposium in Sunday's edition that asks whether America and Israel are drifting apart. Elliott Abrams and Danielle Pletka both say yes, David Makovsky and Hussein Agha and Robert Malley (the latter two writing together) say no, and Aaron David Miller comes out in the middle. Here are some highlights.
Abrams: The current friction in U.S.-Israel relations has one source: the mishandling of those relations by the Obama administration. Poll data show that Israel is as popular as ever among Americans. Strategically we face the same enemies -- such as terrorism and the Iranian regime -- a fact that is not lost on Americans who know we have one single reliable, democratic ally in the Middle East.
I'm inclined to agree with Abrams, in which case the problems are with the Obama administration and not with the United States. If Abrams is correct, when a different administration takes power (God willing, speedily and in our times), relations between Israel and the United States will improve.
Danielle Pletka: Ultimately, the more serious problem for the United States is not a distancing between us and Israel but a failure to grasp that the shared threats to both nations -- the Islamist totalitarianism that has flourished in the oxygen-free environment of the Arab world and the rise of the Revolutionary Guard class in Iran -- will not be mitigated with the resolution of the Palestinians' fate. That President Obama misses this key point is troubling indeed.
I don't believe he misses the point - I believe he's happy with the rise of Islam. Pletka also says that the drifting apart has been going on for some time. Indeed, other than the period between 2002-04 the Bush administration was not favorable to Israel. But they were far less antagonistic than the Obama administration.
David Makovsky: The incident may require more fence-mending of a different sort, but it does not mark a historic low in ties. Take the critical area of Iran. One needs a scorecard to tally the number of distinct visits back and forth at the top of the national security and foreign-policy apparatus of both countries -- just in the past two months. Among those going to Israel -- apart from Biden -- were national security adviser Jim Jones; the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Adm. Mike Mullen; CIA Director Leon Panetta; and the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, John Kerry. Among the Israelis coming to the United States were Defense Minister Ehud Barak, Israeli Defense Forces Chief of Staff Gabi Ashkenazi and national security adviser Uzi Arad. This does not even count lower-level working visits on this issue.
I'd be a little more confident in this if one got the sense that the Obama administration feels the urgency of dealing with Iran that Israel feels. The reason why there has been so much back and forth is because the Obama administration feels that what's urgent is preventing Israel from attacking Iran and not preventing Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons. That is hardly indicative of a close relationship.
Aaron David Miller: Israel is still a small country that feels it's living on the knife's edge. Any American who doesn't get this doesn't get very far.
Funny, I never got the feeling that Miller got that when he was a negotiator. I always felt he was way too hard and showed way too little understanding for our predicament. Has he mellowed now that he is out of government?

But perhaps the most curious response of all comes from Hussein Agha and Robert Malley, who have written that Israel was to blame for the collapse of Camp David in 2000 and not the 'Palestinians' (a thesis that contradicts what Bill Clinton himself has written):
The episode's more meaningful consequence lies elsewhere. Unhappy timing aside, the most telling aspect of the announcement was that it represented the Israeli government's stance on East Jerusalem in all its clarity -- unvarnished and without deceit. In this, it was less act of betrayal than moment of truth, more a message to meditate than a mistake to correct. If the United States intends to bring about an agreement between the two sides, far better that it be aware of their actual positions rather than proceed on the basis of imaginary ones. It might not be pleasant. But at least it would be real.
The announcement did indeed represent Israel's honest position. And while it would be interesting to hear whether Ehud Barak said otherwise in 2000, one cannot help but wonder whether the Obama administration will accept Israel's position for what it is or continue to try to shove their version of a deal down our throats. I'd bet on the latter, which is why I believe that as low as things are now, they could yet go lower after the 2010 elections.


At 5:12 PM, Blogger WilkenC said...

Thanks for the post. It was an interesting read. I'm with Danielle Pletka.

At 6:26 PM, Blogger trumpeldor said...

According to menapress.org, the obamination tries to get a full freeze in Yesha and Jerusalem
Should we not comply,He would deny us the necessary weapons against iran ?
Are you aware of this threatening scheme ?


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