Worst Ever? Not Quite

There's much talk about how relations between the United States and Israel, especially between the two leaders, are worse than ever. 

Not quite.  For all the personal animus between Barack Obama and Bibi Netanyahu, and there certainly is a lot of it, they are at least still speaking to each other, which is more than could be said of George H.W.Bush and Yitzhak Shamir.  President Bush felt the prime minister had lied to him and refused to take his phone calls for quite a while.

When Shamir rejected Bush's demand to freeze settlement construction, the administration retaliated by blocking  $10 billion in loan guarantees to resettle Soviet Jewry in early 1992.

The rift was never repaired. In part because of Shamir's failed stewardship of the American account, he was defeated that summer by Labor's Yitzhak Rabin; relations immediately warmed up and Bush released the loan guarantees.  Bush himself was defeated later that year. About 11 percent of Jewish voters backed his reelection, less than a third of the support he got four years earlier and a level Republicans still haven't returned to.  

In 1956, President Dwight D. Eisenhower threatened to sanction Israel over its conquest of the Sinai Peninsula and he demanded an immediate withdrawal.

In 1975 President Ford announced a "reassessment" of relations with Israel in an effort to forced then Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin to withdraw his forces from ceasefire lines following the Yom Kippur War.  Rabin refused and Ford backed down.

Under Obama, there has been no halt of arms deliveries or collusion with one of Israel's most implacable enemies to draft and pass a UN Security Council resolution condemning the Jewish state, as happened in 1981 in retaliation for Israel's attack on the Iraqi Osiraq nuclear reactor.

The Reagan administration drafted its own Mideast peace plan and vetted it with the Saudis, Jordanians and Egyptians but kept it secret from the Israelis until just before it was sprung on a furious Israeli prime minister.

And no administration has attempted to cut aid passed by Congress, as the Reagan administration tried after Menachem Begin rejected its peace plan. 

Nor has there been any message to members of Congress that they had to choose sides, as in "Begin or Reagan," during the dispute over the sale of AWACS early warning aircraft to Saudi Arabia.   One Jewish senator was bluntly told by a top White House official that he had to decide whether he wanted to be the senator from Israel or rise in the Senate GOP leadership.

So far we haven't heard of any other administration in which the secretary of state forbid a fellow cabinet officer from meeting in his own office with his Israeli counterpart.  The American cabinet official told friends that when he protested the order, the secretary of state said, "F*** the Jews, they don't vote for us."

All that in what many have called the friendly Reagan administration.

 “If you say this is the worst crisis in history, it’s not — but I do not remember a time when language was used like that,” said Michael Oren, a historian and Israeli ambassador to Washington until last year.

About the Author
Douglas M. Bloomfield is a syndicated columnist, Washington lobbyist and consultant. He spent nine years as the legislative director and chief lobbyist for AIPAC.