Cracks in the alliance: Is there finally daylight between Israel and the US?

moshebibi

Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. (Photo: Reuters)

Things have come to a strange state of affairs when Washington regards Avigdor Lieberman, Israel’s far-right foreign minister, as the voice of moderation in the Israeli cabinet.

While Lieberman has called the soon-to-be-unveiled US peace plan the best deal Israel is ever likely to get, and has repeatedly flattered its chief author, US secretary of state John Kerry, other ministers have preferred to pull off the diplomatic gloves.

The most egregious instance came last week when Moshe Yaalon, the Israeli defence minister, launched an unprecedented and personal attack on the man entrusted by President Barack Obama to oversee the negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians.

In a private briefing, disclosed last week by the Yedioth Aharonoth newspaper, Yaalon called Kerry “obsessive and messianic”, denounced his peace plan as “not worth the paper it was written on”, and wished he would win “the Nobel prize and leave us alone”.

Yaalon could hardly claim he was caught in an unguarded moment. According to reports, he has been making equally disparaging comments for weeks. Back in November, for example, an unnamed “senior Israeli minister” dismissed Kerry’s ideas as “simply not connected to reality … He is not an honest broker.”

On this occasion, however, Washington’s response ratcheted up several notches. US officials furiously denounced the comments as “offensive” and demanded that Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu publicly slap down his minister.

But what might have been expected – a fulsome, even grovelling apology – failed to materialise. It was only on Yaalon’s third attempt, and after a long meeting with Netanyahu, that he produced a limp statement of regret “if the secretary was offended”.

Also showing no signs of remorse, Netanyahu evasively suggested that disagreements with the US were always “substantive and not personal”.

With the diplomatic crisis still simmering, Yaalon returned to the theme late last week, telling an audience in Jerusalem that the US and Europe had a “misguided understanding” of the Middle East and denouncing a “Western preoccupation with the Palestinian issue”.

Not suprisingly, the Palestinian leadership is celebrating the latest evidence of Israel’s increasingly self-destructive behaviour. Such outbursts against Kerry will make it much harder for Washington to claim the Palestinians are to blame if, or more likely when, the talks collapse.

The Israeli government is not only hurling insults; it is working visibly to thwart a peace process on which the Obama administration had staked its credibility.

Netanyahu has kept moving the talks’ goal posts. He declared for the first time this month that two small and highly provocative settlements in the West Bank, Beit El and a garrisoned community embedded in Hebron, a large Palestinian city, could not be given up because of their religious importance to the “Jewish people”.

That is on top of recent announcements of a glut of settlement building, ministerial backing for the annexation of the vast expanse of the Jordan Valley and a new demand that Palestinians stop “incitement”.

Even Obama appears finally to be losing hope, telling the New Yorker this week that the chances of a breakthrough are “less than fifty-fifty”.

While Netanyahu may act as though he is doing the White House a favour by negotiating, he should be in no doubt of his dependence on US goodwill. He received a timely reminder last week when Congress voted through a $3.1 billion aid package for Israel in 2014 – plus hundreds of millions of dollars more for missile development – despite the severe troubles facing the US economy.

In part, Netanyahu’s arrogance appears to reflect his personality – and a culture of impractical isolationism he has long nurtured on the Israeli right.

With Washington pushing firmly for engagement with the Palestinians, this has started to rebound on him. Israeli analysts have noted his growing insecurity, fearful that any concessions he makes will weaken him in the eyes of the right and encourage challengers to the throne. That explains some of his indulgence of Yaalon.

But his ideological worldview also accords with his defence minister’s.

It is hardly the first time Netanyahu has picked a fight over the peace process. In Obama’s first term, he waged a war of attrition over US demands for a settlement freeze – and won. He even dared publicly to back the president’s Republican challenger, Mitt Romney, in the 2012 elections.

In unusually frank references to Netanyahu in his new memoir, Robert Gates, Obama’s defence secretary until 2011, recalls only disdain for the Israeli prime minister, even admitting that at one point he tried to get him barred from the White House. He writes: “I was offended by his glibness and his criticism of US policy – not to mention his arrogance and outlandish ambition.” He also calls Netanyahu an “ungrateful” ally and a “danger to Israel”.

But the problem runs deeper still. Just too much bad blood has built up between these two allies during Netanyahu’s term. The feud is not only over Israel’s conflict with the Palestinians but on the related matter of US handling of what Israel considers its strategic environment in the wake of the Arab Spring.

Netanyahu is angry that the US has not taken a more decisive hand in shoring up Israeli interests in Egypt and Syria, and near-apoplectic at what he sees as a cave-in on Iran and what Israel claims is its ambition to build a nuclear weapon.

He appears ready to repay the White House in kind, rousing pro-Israel lobby groups in Washington to retaliate on almost-home turf, in Congress, through initiatives such as a bill threatening to step up sanctions against Iran, subverting Obama’s diplomatic efforts.

Aaron David Miller, a veteran US Middle East peace negotiator, recently described the Israeli-US relationship as “too big to fail”. For the moment that is undoubtedly true.

But in his New Yorker interview, Obama warned: “The old order, the old equilibrium, is no longer tenable. The question then becomes, What’s next?”

That warning is a double-edged sword. It is doubtless directed chiefly against those, like Iran and Syria, that are seen as threatening western interests in the Middle East. But Israel is no less a part of the “old order”, and if it continues to cramp US efforts to respond effectively in a changing region it will severely test the alliance.

It looks as if the cracks between Israel and the US are only going to grow deeper and wider.

About Jonathan Cook

Jonathan Cook won the Martha Gellhorn Special Prize for Journalism. His latest books are “Israel and the Clash of Civilisations: Iraq, Iran and the Plan to Remake the Middle East” (Pluto Press) and “Disappearing Palestine: Israel’s Experiments in Human Despair” (Zed Books). His new website is jonathan-cook.net.
Posted in Israel/Palestine, Middle East, US Policy in the Middle East, US Politics

{ 47 comments... read them below or add one }

  1. American says:

    ‘Aaron David Miller, a veteran US Middle East peace negotiator, recently described the Israeli-US relationship as “too big to fail”. For the moment that is undoubtedly true.”

    Well the –”too big to fails”— did fail didnt they?
    Or did I dream the trillion dollars bail out of the biggest US biggies?
    Too big to fail amuses me considering all the too big to fail empire graveyards littering history.
    Would the US do some trillion dollars bail out of Israel? Would the world rebuild Israel if it fails? I have my doubts.
    I dont know where pundits and politicos get this insipid shit like too big to fail anyway —well, I do know where they get actually—I just dont understand why they think everyone is dumb enough to buy it.

    • seafoid says:

      Too big to fail means too big to work.

      Martin Wolf on the TBTF banks

      link to ft.com

      “The second is whether enough has been done to make the financial system less fragile. I remain concerned. Yes, regulation and oversight have improved. But, in essence, today’s financial system is the same as before. Worse, it is yet more dominated by a small number of thinly capitalised, complex, global behemoths. The notion that such institutions could be “resolved” in a panic without triggering panic remains untested and, partly for this reason, government promises not to bail them out are not credible. This is a highly troubling legacy.”

      Honestly, is Israel any different ?

      Marco Rubio or Christie or Nancy Whatshername can mouth platitudes about Israel until all the lobby money comes home but in a crisis situation with all options exhausted DC WILL pull the plug.
      The bots can go ask China to take over.
      YESHA was never, ever rational. Nobody asked them to build it.

      • American says:

        ”The notion that such institutions could be “resolved” in a panic without triggering panic remains untested and, partly for this reason, government promises not to bail them out are not credible.”>>>

        The wider public didnt panic very much in the WS crisis because they simply didnt know what going on…and because they have grown accustomed to the government ‘handling crisis’ so it was a blip.
        The people who paniced were the gov people percisely because they did know what was going on.
        IMO panic can be healthly and do some good…but it has to be big enough and bad enough and wide spread enough and people have to understand exactly what caused the crisis…..for panic to result in demand for change.
        Thats why I was not for the too big to fail bailout.
        The government nipped the crisis in the bud to avoid the public panic and demands for reform that might have meant fundamental changes to the system that caused it.
        It will happen again.

        This is why I also advocate scaring the living shit out of Israel. Give them a heart attack and see what happens.

        • seafoid says:

          “This is why I also advocate scaring the living shit out of Israel. Give them a heart attack and see what happens.”

          See what God does when TSHTF > Let’s see those mitzvot work, baby

        • Citizen says:

          Obama did not reinstate the chinese wall of Glass-Seagell, and Ike’s not in the Whitehouse. It’s just Johnson with some Brillcream.

          • seafoid says:

            Obama is just interested in timepass, as they say in India.
            It’s very hard to change a system that so many people benefit from.
            But the system is doomed.

            The water levels in the Oglala aquifer keep the Midwest going and they are not what they used to be, for example…I think it’s ironic that it’s called Ogalala- those people knew what they were doing…

      • dbroncos says:

        The statute of limitations on fraud is 5 years. The perpetrators of the mortgage finance scam and the biggest bank robbery in American history are now in the clear. Their partners in crime in the US government made sure that none of the oligarchs would face jail time for wrecking the world wide economy. A breach of the public trust as outrageous as “weapons of mass destruction”.

  2. pabelmont says:

    “Netanyahu evasively suggested that disagreements with the US were always “substantive and not personal”.” Suggesting [1] there are or have been MULTIPLE disagreements and therefore [2] there is DAYLIGHT between the USA and Israel.

    Someone should tell Congress, which for the most part denies this (or wishes it otherwise) (or reads silly scripts like trained monkeys).

  3. bilal a says:

    The key issue is whether Israel is a nation for all its citizens, once privilege and supremacy falls, there is no reason for any ethnic nationalist to stay there, expect all those dual passports to be cashed in.

    Juan Cole: Recognizing Israel as a Jewish State is like saying the US is a White State
    link to ht.ly

    • Qualtrough says:

      If that happens the USA will once again be the receptacle for the detritus of failed right wing regimes (referring to those who support them, not the victims), and those ‘ethnic nationalists’ will continue to exert their influence on US foreign policy, only now from deep within. For an example of that, look to how the US has maintained a ridiculous but cruel embargo on tiny Cuba for more than 50 years thanks to those who long for another Batista-style government.

  4. Netanyahu very likely regards the US Congress as sufficiently docile, and compliant to demands of Aipac et al., to enable Israel to continue to scr*w the Palestinians.

  5. Mike_Konrad says:

    Obama is the problem.

    He should have realized that Israel would not yield.

    He was foolish.

  6. I am a 71 year old medical school professor born in Ireland who has travelled a lot in the middle east and even worked in Lebanon. They say that I am very intelligent and I do read everything including Haaretz. I love Jonathan Cook because he sounds just like me talking to my wife. I cannot talk to most of my Jewish friends about Palestine. They become totally irrational and think that they can waltz back to Palestine after 2000 years and control everything. They fail to see the effect of all this on the poor Palestinians. They say that Palestinians (Arabs) hate them so they feel that the outrageous behavior of the Israeli government is justified. I am shocked by this. It violated 65 years of education on my part. What can we do to change this ?
    We can only hope that other Jews can change them because they may listen to them. They certainly do not listen to me. Thank God for Phillip Weiss, Peter Beinart and Max Blumenthal et al – and this group is expanding. Some rational voices in the wilderness. Thank you all !

    • Citizen says:

      The few rational voices in the wilderness are not enough; the bankrupt and homeless Americans just allowed their representatives in Congress to give Israel it’s usual $3.5 million per day, with interest, and no strings attached, plus another quarter million for Israel’s missile defense system. The absurdly costly F-35 has not been cancelled, and neither has the US government’s promise to give Israel some of those for free.

    • seafoid says:

      “What can we do to change this ?”

      Get the US air force to drop Jay Z leaflets over Israel . Israelis know how this works because they do it in Gaza.

      “Said where i would stop before i even started
      When i get to one brick, then The Game i will depart with
      Got to one brick then i looked to the sky, said
      Sorry God, i lied, but give me one more try
      Got to two bricks, new cars, new whips
      But niggas never learn til’ they end up in the newsclip
      The irony of selling drugs is sort of like i’m using it
      Guess its two sides to what ‘substance abuse’ is
      Can’t stop, won’t stop, nigga since new shit
      Brand new convertibles, i’m so ruthless
      Front row, fight night-see how big my tube is?
      Fuck HD, nigga see how clear my view is?
      (FALLING)
      But there’s a price for overdoing it
      Doin’ it this big’ll put you on the map
      Stick-up kids is out some tax
      Plus the FBI Boys with the cameras in the back, DAMN!

      Now you’re
      (FALLING)
      When you should’ve scaled back,
      Now you’re
      (FALLING)
      Right into they lap
      Falling, they applaud and they screamin’ at the screen
      “Damn, you fucked up!” like your favorite movie scene
      Godfather, Goodfellas, Scarface, Casino
      You seen what that last run did to DeNiro
      When he can’t beat the odds, can’t cheat the cards
      Can’t blow too hard, life’s a deck of cards
      Now you’re tumbling, its humbling, you’re falling, you’re mumbling
      Under your breath like you knew this day was coming
      (FALLING)
      Now let’s pray that arm candy
      That you left your Ex- for stay ‘down’ and come in handy
      Cause come January, it gets cold
      When the letters start to slow, when your commissary’s low
      When your lawyer screams “Appeal!” only thinkin’ bout a bill
      When your chances are nil, damn, gravity’s ill”

      link to azlyrics.com

      I know that a lot Jews look down on African Americans but Jay Z is so on the ball with Fallin’. It so works for Israel.

      • seafoid tells us that a lot Jews look down on African- Americans. But seafoid approves of the quenelle as long as it is done by brown skinned people. Is that the bigotry of lowered expectations? I dunno, but it stinks.

        • seafoid says:

          The quenelle tells me that some brown skinned people don’t buy the Zionist default – simultaneously privileged insiders/persecuted minority.
          It’s very messy now, isn’t it ?

          • seafoid- You are asserting that hatred of Jews and hatred of Zionism are messily intertwined. While one of the primary contentions of Phil Weiss is that they can be divorced from each other.

            The quenelle tells me that some people think the route to freedom is through giving respect to Nazism. I doubt that giving respect to the Nazis can lead to anything good.

            Do you disagree?

          • Shingo says:

            While one of the primary contentions of Phil Weiss is that they can be divorced from each other.

            When has Phil ever made that assertion?

            The quenelle tells me that some people think the route to freedom is through giving respect to Nazism.

            No one can stop you thinking that, no matter how far the assumption. I doubt you think it so much as use it to justify Israel’s match towards fascism.

            I doubt that giving respect to the Nazis can lead to anything good.

            Tell that to Israel’s ruling coalition.

          • Walid says:

            seafoid, Roger Cukierman of Crif declared a couple of days back that the quenelle is reprehensible only when performed in front of a synagogue or a holocaust memorial site, otherwise it’s nothing more than an anarchist’s anti-establishment gesture when performed at a site that is not specifically Jewish.

            From Times of Israel:
            “… Roger Cukierman of the CRIF umbrella group adjusted his position in a filmed interview published Tuesday on the website of the Le Figaro daily.

            Reacting to the decision that day by England’s Football Association to punish Nicolas Anelka, a French soccer player who performed the gesture during a match, Cukierman said, “It seems to me a bit severe because it seems to me that this gesture has an anti-Semitic connotation, which would be reprehensible, only when performed in front of a synagogue or a Holocaust memorial site.”

            But when performed at a place “without any Jewish connection, it seems to me like an anarchist gesture against the establishment, which, it seems, does not merit severe punishment,” he said…”

            link to timesofisrael.com

            the 48 seconds video of Cukierman’s quote:

            link to sport24.lefigaro.fr

          • Walid says:

            Yonah said: “seafoid- You are asserting that hatred of Jews and hatred of Zionism are messily intertwined. While one of the primary contentions of Phil Weiss is that they can be divorced from each other.”

            The assertion (if actually made) would have to be true according to Roger Cukierman, the head of Crif, (French counterpart of AIPAC, the federation of organizations representing the 500,000 French Jews). In another Figaro video interview December 17th, Cukierman said that anti-Zionism is a disguised form of antisemitism since for lefties it’s not “elegant” to be anti-Jewish but it to be anti-Israel, therefore being anti-Zionist, which is equated with being anti-Israel, is in fact being antisemitic, which is against the law in France. Boycotting Israel then becomes another form of antisemitism.

            You can’t have it more intertwined than that. Cukierman, BTW, is also VP of the World Jewish Congress.

            10 minute Figaro video in French:
            link to actu.orange.fr

          • seafoid says:

            ” I doubt that giving respect to the Nazis can lead to anything good”

            Yonah- I fundamentally agree with you. But you have to give people an outlet other than going back to the Nazis. I think that is where Foxman is wrong. If you want Never Again to mean anything, you have to play fair with the Palestinians. Tearing up the rulebook is not good for anyone.
            Zionists can run Windows Angry 4.0 for decades but if other groups aren’t happy with the status quo they can do it their way too.

            It’s not enough to say the IDF are not Nazis or it’s worse in the DRC. People know what’s going on.

            We urgently need a grown up discussion about Israel and accountability. I can imagine how scary it must seem if the quenelle is the new Hitlergruß but ultimately we have to get back to values that everyone can agree on.

            Judaism is too important to risk.

        • Cliff says:

          @Wondering Jew

          You spends your days languishing over the comments of a few people on an Internet blog.

          Your total disregard for the real story – Israel’s moral degradation and continued destruction of Palestine through colonialism – demonstrates an emotional and intellectual cowardice.

          Will you at least point your razor sharp skepticism at the comments of your fellow Jewish nationalists?

          Not even the Christian Zionist Mike_Konrad?

          Of course not. MW is the problem! MW is apparently holding back the piece process!

          Thank you Wondering Jew, Eric Alterman plagiarizer – you are so very insightful and courageous.

          • seafoid says:

            Is Yonah Wondering Jew?
            I missed that episode.

            “Your total disregard for the real story – Israel’s moral degradation and continued destruction of Palestine through colonialism – demonstrates an emotional and intellectual cowardice”

            +500

          • Cliff says:

            Yep. He changed his handle awhile back.

            As new as newclench is oldclench.

    • bintbiba says:

      And thank goodness for you, too, Unverified.!

      • seafoid says:

        Ya Bintbiba

        When you read that post by Unverified do you think it says something about how your thinking developed? It certainly does for me.

        I have read far too much stuff on Zionism to have any faith in any of the bullshit that passes for reason in their bubble.

        Ma yin fash , as they say in umadunya. Mish mumkin.

        • bintbiba says:

          Ya Seafoid
          I tried to answer your question some days ago, It got lost somewhere i know not where. I’m not clever on the computer ,it takes me ages to find things,as the green marker has been banished!
          My thinking and how it developed… i wouldn’t signify it as ‘thinking’,more like reacting ,at a very young age being transferred to a new environment, new way of speaking, different societal setup, plus the trauma of losing home, seeing the anguish of my parents’ demeanour, worries about getting us educated and well developed as humans and good citizens,etc.. Lebanon is a beautiful country beset by many social, confessional ,political problems. I was 12-13 at the time…. to use a term, my emotional thought process was pummelled and kneeded in all sorts of ways. Loyalty to Palestine, Lebanon, common sense, decency were all very difficult to manage. Never had time to get angry enough to hate.
          In short, a very long story,a voyage of discovery through anguish, frustration, 3 wars ( 2 invasions +1 very long cicvil war) . In the end, I grew up!

          • seafoid says:

            How did you grow up? What was the process by which you could read a post by Hophmi or see Regev on TV and say with authority that it was all crap ?

  7. piotr says:

    The theme of “too large to fail” is known from antiquity, and this is a relatively recent treatment:

    … on the pedestal these words appear –
    “My name is Ozymandias, king of kings:
    Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!”
    Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
    Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare
    The lone and level sands stretch far away.’

    On less literally but more stylistic subject, it seems that I have spent more than 30 years in USA without noticing the phrase “there should be no daylight between …”.
    Free Dictionary offers several idioms with daylight, and I was familiar with all those “knock the daylights out of …”, “begin to see daylight”, “daylight robbery”, “in broad daylights”.

    So Israel is attempting a robbery in broad daylight, so USA should begin to see the daylight and knock the daylights out of some stupid ministers.

    • pabelmont says:

      “So Israel is attempting a robbery in broad daylight, so USA should begin to see the daylight and knock the daylights out of some stupid ministers.”

      Lovely! And “too big to fail” reminds me of “The bigger they are the harder they fall.”

    • bintbiba says:

      Seafoid, in a nutshell… the Internet, The Russell Tribunal, Ilan Pappe’, Avi Shlaim, Miko Peled, Nurit Peled, Mondoweiss, and a growing number of brilliant writers on this site !!
      I feel so grateful for the insights, the knowledge, the generosity, the humour and even the Hasbaristas for creating such a vibrant life online.

  8. james1118 says:

    The crack between the US citizens and Israel is very very obvious…… Anti-semetism has increased in the USA and it was clearly reflected during the last presidential election in the USA. All of AIPAC’s efforts failed!!!!

    In reality the USA should invade Israel!!!! Enough US citizens have died for Israel!!!

  9. seafoid says:

    I can’t get my head around the notion of Israel and daylight.
    It’s mired in darkness.

    • Citizen says:

      Actually, Israel’s rogue qualities are right out in the sunlight; the darkness is over America–we need to get Americans to watch alternative news outlets like they watch NFL football games.

  10. American says:

    Was Harry Truman a Zionist?
    John Judis, The New Republic

    The answer turns out to be no. And he wasnt a christian zionist or philosemite either. What he was was politically weak.

    link to realclearworld.com

    ”Truman didn’t know all the details of the history of Palestine, but he knew that the Jews had come to Palestine a half century before to establish a Jewish state where another people had lived, and had made up the overwhelming majority for the prior 1,400 years. He was offended by the proposal, pressed by Silver and American Zionists, that a minority should be allowed to rule a majority. He wanted an arrangement that would respect the just claims of both Jews and the Arab.”

    The “underdogs,” as Truman once put it in a letter to Eleanor Roosevelt, are now acting like the “top dogs.”

    The knives are out for the zionist in this article.
    Good, this is the other half of the propaganda tactic that needs attacking also—Whoever they dont paint as anti semites they try to paint as Jew worshipers, the exact opposite, to show us how famous leaders worshiped Jews and the holocaust so we all should accept it and do the same.
    In most of both cases it is lies.

  11. American says:

    Abbas seeks $1-billion Gaza deal with Russia 21 hours ago link to news.yahoo.com

    ”Abbas and Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev were due to sign an intergovernmental agreement that reports said included a $1.0-billion (730-million-euro) natural gas project in the Gaza section of the Mediterranean Sea.

    ”The state ITAR-TASS news agency said Russia’s natural gas giant Gazprom hoped to produce 30 billion cubic metres of natural gas at the site.
    The report added that Russia’s Technopromexport engineering firm was also considering a small oil development project near the West Bank city of Ramallah. ”

    Finally a smart move reaching out to Russia by Abbas. I for one am delighted to see Russia ‘is back’. It is the only country big and bad enough to be a counter weight to the US. And Russia asserting its presence/interest in the ME may save the US by detering it from any more ‘invasions’ and ME war.
    Advocating picking up Russia and throwing it against the wall as the zionist demand the US do with to their ME state enemies is a whole different ballgame—-but I would love to see the I- lobbies try to get the US to sanction or take action against Russia for ‘aiding Israel’s enemies’.lol

    • Shingo says:

      Thanks for the link American. That’s amazing news.

      This could be another case of Putin pulling the rug from under Obama/Kerry. They undermined Russia at Geneva II and Russia is returning the favor.

      The reason Abbas agreed to the se rediculous talks and agreed not to go to the ICC, was because Kerry blackmailed him by threatening to withhold aid. With this money, Abbas can tell Kerry to go to hell. At the very least, he can drive a much harder bargain and not accept Kerry’s pathetic offers.

      Amazing development!!

    • bintbiba says:

      For once I can say ‘well done, Mahmoud Abbas’.
      Let us see how it goes on from there.