Steve Kramer

Crisis in relations with the US?

Many Israelis and others are worried that Prime Minister Netanyahu has created a crisis in relations with the American president, and by extension, with the United States. But disagreements between Israel and its chief ally have been common ever since Israel declared its independence in 1948. Here’s a short list of disputes which have temporarily roiled relations between the world’s greatest power and Israel:

1948 Harry Truman imposed an arms embargo on Israel just when it was attacked by six Arab nations.
1956 Dwight Eisenhower forced Israel to withdraw from the Sinai Peninsula without receiving any peace overtures from Egypt.
1967 Lyndon Johnson failed to honor commitments to Israel to keep the internationally significant Straits of Tiran open to Israeli ships. He warned Israel not to unilaterally attack Egypt, as enemy armies threatened Israel’s borders. Result: Six Day War.

1973 During the Yom Kippur War, Richard Nixon at first refused to resupply Israel with materiel, at Secretary of State Kissinger’s urging. Nixon later relented.

1981 Ronald Reagan condemned Israel for destroying the Osirak nuclear weapons installation in Iraq, which would have been a mortal danger to Israel and the region.

1992 George H.W. Bush withheld loan guarantees to Israel in protest over Israel’s building in disputed areas beyond the 1949 Armistice Line.
1993 Bill Clinton strong-armed Israel into making unilateral concessions to the Palestinian Authority, without receiving reciprocal concessions. This has continued for years.

Notwithstanding all of the above disputes between Israel and the US, the strong, mutually advantageous relationship has endured.

The relationship changed for the worse when President Obama took office. In his June, 2009 speech at Cairo University, Obama’s first international outing as president, he offered, “a new beginning between the United States and Muslims around the world, one based on mutual interest and mutual respect.” That sounds great, but America has been on the giving end ever since, receiving nothing in return. In fact, despite all of the administration’s outreach, America’s standing in the Middle East is at a low point. Not only that, Obama’s wish to remove the US from its position as the dominant world power has empowered not only Iran, but also President Putin in Russia, who aspires to replace America as the world’s dominant super power.

The Obama administration has gone out of its way to condemn the upcoming speech to Congress by Prime Minister Netanyahu, making Netanyahu’s appearance – not his urgent message – really big news. The US State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki rebuked Israel’s premier recently, saying, “It sounds like he knows more than the negotiators.” Actually, Netanyahu probably does. No leader has warned the world longer, or more emphatically, of the danger of Iran’s achieving nuclear weapons capability, and its premier role in funding global terror, than Netanyahu.

“In his [1993] book ‘A Place Among The Nations,’ Netanyahu wrote about the Iranian drive for nuclear weapons. In this very context, he noted that a ‘deep cultural and psychological distortion’ of Islamic fundamentalism has turned it into a ‘cancerous tumor that threatens modern civilization.’ You don’t treat cancer by reasoning with it. You need to stop it in its tracks, and then eradicate it altogether.” (2013-Chemi Shalev, Haaretz)

Netanyahu’s warnings have gone unheeded. In this decade, Iran has become the most significant actor behind Hamas in Gaza, Hezbollah in Lebanon, Bashar Assad in Syria, the government of Iraq, and most recently, the Houthis in Yemen. For some reason, this does not seem to alarm the Obama administration and its negotiating partners.

President Obama has picked the fight with Israel’s premier. It could hardly be the other way around, with America the world’s richest, most powerful country and Israel a comparative pygmy, 1/40th its size. Obama sees Netanyahu as an irritant, blocking the administration’s grand plan to support a rehabilitated Iran as America’s partner in managing the roiling Middle East.

The Jerusalem Post (February 23), which does not often bash Netanyahu, editorialized that the Obama administration direct its displeasure “at Netanyahu personally.” Washington’s strident attack on Israel’s premier is not a “personal feud;” it is a concerted effort on the administration’s part to relegate Israel to an inferior position in the Middle East, by a direct attack on its elected leader and a campaign to unseat him in Israel’s upcoming election.

Of course, neither President Obama nor Prime Minister Netanyahu will be in power indefinitely. Obama may succeed in replacing the “chickenshit” Netanyahu, as he was recently described by a highly-placed administration official. The more compliant Isaac Herzog-Tzipi Livni duo, who promise a “revolution” in Israel and no confrontation with the administration, are Washington’s choice.

On the other hand, Netanyahu may win yet another term and become the longest-serving Israeli premier ever. In any event, this kerfuffle between Obama and Netanyahu/Israel will blow over, and will be just another incident in a long list of disagreements between the US and Israel. The relationship will endure, because the Congress and the American people identify with Israel much more than they do with any other country in the region – no matter what President Obama believes.

About the Author
Steve Kramer grew up in Atlantic City, graduated from Johns Hopkins in 1967, adopted the hippie lifestyle until 1973, then joined the family business for 15 years. Steve moved to Israel from Margate, NJ in 1991 with his family. He has written more than 1100 articles about Israel and Jews since making Aliyah. Steve and his wife Michal live in Kfar Saba.