When the sun set over Washington, D.C. on January 20, 2009 it also set on what had been a warm and friendly relationship between the U.S. and Israel. From the time President Harry S Truman acknowledged the formation of the reborn State of Israel in 1949, the two countries have enjoyed a special détente. The nearly eight years under the Obama administration which began on that cold day in January has seen that special bond frayed to the point of being unrecognizable. It has been severely damaged by the recent accord with Iran, a country that has for decades promised the annihilation of Israel as one of its foremost aims.
In a vivid display of just how far the solidarity between the two countries had eroded, President Obama no longer even attempted a show of support for his Israeli counterpart. On the day that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was to address the United Nations General Assembly, Mr. Obama initiated a video conference call with Secretary of State John Kerry and U.S. Ambassador to the UN Samantha Power, which effectively took the administration’s two most senior representatives out of the assembly hall.
The two were not present as the prime minister made the most graphic presentation of how Israel is treated by that body. When commenting on the Iran deal, Netanyahu said:
Last month, Khamenei once again made his genocidal intentions clear before Iran’s top clerical body, the Assembly of Experts. He spoke about Israel, home to over six million Jews. He pledged, “there will be no Israel in 25 years.” Seventy years after the murder of six million Jews, Iran’s rulers promise to destroy my country. Murder my people. And the response from this body, the response from nearly every one of the governments represented here has been absolutely nothing! Utter silence! Deafening silence. http://www.timesofisrael.com/full-text-of-netanyahu-2015-address-to-the-un-general-assembly/
And then the prime minister paused for 45 seconds of uninterrupted silence; a point well-aimed at but totally missing the Obama administration hierarchy, at least one of whom was complicit in negotiating the deal with Iran. The table where the U.S. delegation sits was staffed only by low-level underlings.
While the two countries have never fully agreed on all the issues, the U.S. has provided billions in foreign aid over the years. Perhaps that move has given various administrations the idea that the Israeli government was an adjunct of Washington and must then be expected to kowtow to every whim of the sitting administration. This has seemed especially true in matters relating to the Palestinian claims of a two-state government and the development of Jewish communities in the West Bank.
A finger is most often pointed at Israel for the failure of a peace agreement between Israel and the Palestinians. What few, if any, in the echoing halls of the White House seem to understand is that the Middle East conflict is neither about land, nor about the establishment of a state for the Palestinian people. Both have been offered and rejected various times—in 1939 before the establishment of the nation of Israel, again in Oslo, which introduced the Oslo Accords, at Camp David, and in Washington, D.C. Rather, the conflict is about the destruction of the State of Israel and the annihilation of the Jewish people.
The Palestinian Authority doesn’t want Jerusalem divided, but instead wants all of Jerusalem. They do not simply desire to occupy the West Bank, but all of Israel from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean Sea. It is not a matter of “land for peace”; it is a matter of using any means possible to rid the Middle East of the Jewish population altogether. They do not wish the subjugation of the Jewish people; they wish their destruction. This was Egyptian leader Gamal Abdel Nasser’s agenda. It was Yasser Arafat’s agenda, and that of Mahmoud Abbas, Bashar al-Assad of Syria and the current leaders in Iran. Of course, anti-Semites in the West who oppose the Jewish state are quick to point a finger and compare the relationship between Israel and the Palestinians to that of South Africa and its apartheid state.
Much of the animosity generated in Liberal Left circles has to do with the regard in which Mr. Netanyahu is held by many in Congress. And, while few see anything wrong with high-handed U.S. intrusion in Israeli politics, any hint of Netanyahu’s so-called meddling in U.S. policies is considered the worst kind of incursion.
The idea that an Israeli leader would be openly thwarted in the quest for office in Israel was not birthed by Mr. Obama. When Benjamin Netanyahu ran for Prime Minister in 1996, President Bill Clinton did not find him to be as malleable as was his predecessor Yitzhak Rabin. A few weeks before the elections, Rahm Emanuel, Clinton’s senior advisor on internal affairs, arrived in Israel. He had been sent to coordinate the possibility of using his own staff to help the campaign or Mr. Netanyahu’s opponent. The American embassy in Tel Aviv invited a number of Israeli political experts for a meeting with Emanuel.
Netanyahu, however, held the day and won the election. Afterwards, Clinton began to treat the prime minister as if he were head of the opposition party in the United States. Ultimately, Clinton seemingly made every effort to undermine Prime Minister Netanyahu by trying to assist the Labor candidate to defeat the incumbent.
Right at the start of the 1999 election campaign in Israel, Clinton sent a very clear message to Mr. Netanyahu: the team that had run both of his successful election campaigns—James Carville, Stanley Greenberg and Bob Shrum—was sent to aid Ehud Barak. Some of the top donors to the Democratic Party and to Clinton’s runs for office were mobilized for Barak’s campaign as though this was another election the Democrats must win. The result of those efforts was that six percent of Netanyahu’s voters moved over to the other side, and he lost the election.
The prime minister is set to make a return trip to the U.S. in November when some believe Mr. Obama will “deliver a huge new military-aid package to Israel and perhaps make some political moves to appease Mr. Netanyahu.”
Some have opined that the package could include the Massive Ordnance Penetrator, a precision-guided bunker buster which could do considerable damage to Iran’s underground nuclear sites. That move would certainly upset the Iranian leaders Mr. Obama has been so eager to placate. And, there are those who would like to see the Israeli prime minister strong-armed back to the negotiating table. There, once again, Israel would be forced to appease Abbas and those who demand, not a two-state solution but Israel’s dissolution.
Mike Evans is the author of The Columbus Code, his latest novel. It is available online and at booksellers.