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The Crisis in U.S.-Israel Relations Is Officially Here

US Politics & Gov't  (tags: U.S., Israel, relations, chickenshit, Americans, end all aid to Israel, end the occupation of Palestine-siege of, American taxpayers, Palestinian human rights, assault on Gaza 2014, congress, media, freedoms, war, Govtfearmongering, obama, propaganda )

- 1720 days ago -
The other day I was talking to a senior Obama administration official about the foreign leader who seems to frustrate the White House and the State Department the most. "The thing about Bibi is, he's a chickenshit,"


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fly bird (26)
Saturday November 1, 2014, 4:00 pm
The Obama administration's anger is "red-hot" over Israel's settlement policies, and the Netanyahu government openly expresses contempt for Obama's understanding of the Middle East. Profound changes in the relationship may be coming.

Not friends at all (Reuters )

The other day I was talking to a senior Obama administration official about the foreign leader who seems to frustrate the White House and the State Department the most. “The thing about Bibi is, he’s a chickenshit,” this official said, referring to the Israeli prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, by his nickname.

This comment is representative of the gloves-off manner in which American and Israeli officials now talk about each other behind closed doors, and is yet another sign that relations between the Obama and Netanyahu governments have moved toward a full-blown crisis. The relationship between these two administrations— dual guarantors of the putatively “unbreakable” bond between the U.S. and Israel—is now the worst it's ever been, and it stands to get significantly worse after the November midterm elections. By next year, the Obama administration may actually withdraw diplomatic cover for Israel at the United Nations, but even before that, both sides are expecting a showdown over Iran, should an agreement be reached about the future of its nuclear program.

The fault for this breakdown in relations can be assigned in good part to the junior partner in the relationship, Netanyahu, and in particular, to the behavior of his cabinet. Netanyahu has told several people I’ve spoken to in recent days that he has “written off” the Obama administration, and plans to speak directly to Congress and to the American people should an Iran nuclear deal be reached. For their part, Obama administration officials express, in the words of one official, a “red-hot anger” at Netanyahu for pursuing settlement policies on the West Bank, and building policies in Jerusalem, that they believe have fatally undermined Secretary of State John Kerry’s peace process.
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Over the years, Obama administration officials have described Netanyahu to me as recalcitrant, myopic, reactionary, obtuse, blustering, pompous, and “Aspergery.” (These are verbatim descriptions; I keep a running list.) But I had not previously heard Netanyahu described as a “chickenshit.” I thought I appreciated the implication of this description, but it turns out I didn’t have a full understanding. From time to time, current and former administration officials have described Netanyahu as a national leader who acts as though he is mayor of Jerusalem, which is to say, a no-vision small-timer who worries mainly about pleasing the hardest core of his political constituency. (President Obama, in interviews with me, has alluded to Netanyahu’s lack of political courage.)

“The good thing about Netanyahu is that he’s scared to launch wars,” the official said, expanding the definition of what a chickenshit Israeli prime minister looks like. “The bad thing about him is that he won’t do anything to reach an accommodation with the Palestinians or with the Sunni Arab states. The only thing he’s interested in is protecting himself from political defeat. He’s not [Yitzhak] Rabin, he’s not [Ariel] Sharon, he’s certainly no [Menachem] Begin. He’s got no guts.”

I ran this notion by another senior official who deals with the Israel file regularly. This official agreed that Netanyahu is a “chickenshit” on matters related to the comatose peace process, but added that he’s also a “coward” on the issue of Iran’s nuclear threat. The official said the Obama administration no longer believes that Netanyahu would launch a preemptive strike on Iran’s nuclear facilities in order to keep the regime in Tehran from building an atomic arsenal. “It’s too late for him to do anything. Two, three years ago, this was a possibility. But ultimately he couldn’t bring himself to pull the trigger. It was a combination of our pressure and his own unwillingness to do anything dramatic. Now it’s too late.”
U.S. officials had described Netanyahu to me as recalcitrant, pompous, and “Aspergery.” But this was the first time I'd heard him called “chickenshit.”

This assessment represents a momentous shift in the way the Obama administration sees Netanyahu. In 2010, and again in 2012, administration officials were convinced that Netanyahu and his then-defense minister, the cowboyish ex-commando Ehud Barak, were readying a strike on Iran. To be sure, the Obama administration used the threat of an Israeli strike in a calculated way to convince its allies (and some of its adversaries) to line up behind what turned out to be an effective sanctions regime. But the fear inside the White House of a preemptive attack (or preventative attack, to put it more accurately) was real and palpable—as was the fear of dissenters inside Netanyahu’s Cabinet, and at Israel Defense Forces headquarters. At U.S. Central Command headquarters in Tampa, analysts kept careful track of weather patterns and of the waxing and waning moon over Iran, trying to predict the exact night of the coming Israeli attack.

Today, there are few such fears. “The feeling now is that Bibi’s bluffing,” this second official said. “He’s not Begin at Osirak,” the official added, referring to the successful 1981 Israeli Air Force raid ordered by the ex-prime minister on Iraq’s nuclear reactor.

The belief that Netanyahu’s threat to strike is now an empty one has given U.S. officials room to breathe in their ongoing negotiations with Iran. You might think that this new understanding of Netanyahu as a hyper-cautious leader would make the administration somewhat grateful. Sober-minded Middle East leaders are not so easy to come by these days, after all. But on a number of other issues, Netanyahu does not seem sufficiently sober-minded.

Another manifestation of his chicken-shittedness, in the view of Obama administration officials, is his near-pathological desire for career-preservation. Netanyahu’s government has in recent days gone out of its way to a) let the world know that it will quicken the pace of apartment-building in disputed areas of East Jerusalem; and b) let everyone know of its contempt for the Obama administration and its understanding of the Middle East. Settlement expansion, and the insertion of right-wing Jewish settlers into Arab areas of East Jerusalem, are clear signals by Netanyahu to his political base, in advance of possible elections next year, that he is still with them, despite his rhetorical commitment to a two-state solution. The public criticism of Obama policies is simultaneously heartfelt, and also designed to mobilize the base.

Just yesterday, Netanyahu criticized those who condemn Israeli expansion plans in East Jerusalem as “disconnected from reality.” This statement was clearly directed at the State Department, whose spokeswoman, Jen Psaki, had earlier said that, “if Israel wants to live in a peaceful society, they need to take steps that will reduce tensions. Moving forward with this sort of action would be incompatible with the pursuit of peace.”

It is the Netanyahu government that appears to be disconnected from reality. Jerusalem is on the verge of exploding into a third Palestinian uprising. It is true that Jews have a moral right to live anywhere they want in Jerusalem, their holiest city. It is also true that a mature government understands that not all rights have to be exercised simultaneously. Palestinians believe, not without reason, that the goal of planting Jewish residents in all-Arab neighborhoods is not integration, but domination—to make it as difficult as possible for a Palestinian capital in East Jerusalem to ever emerge.

Unlike the U.S. secretary of state, John Kerry, I don’t have any hope for the immediate creation of a Palestinian state (it could be dangerous, at this chaotic moment in Middle East history, when the Arab-state system is in partial collapse, to create an Arab state on the West Bank that could easily succumb to extremism), but I would also like to see Israel foster conditions on the West Bank and in East Jerusalem that would allow for the eventual birth of such a state. This is what the Obama administration wants (and also what Europe wants, and also, by the way, what many Israelis and American Jews want), and this issue sits at the core of the disagreement between Washington and Jerusalem.

Israel and the U.S., like all close allies, have disagreed from time to time on important issues. But I don’t remember such a period of sustained and mutual contempt. Much of the anger felt by Obama administration officials is rooted in the Netanyahu government’s periodic explosions of anti-American condescension. The Israeli defense minister, Moshe Ya’alon, in particular, has publicly castigated the Obama administration as naive, or worse, on matters related to U.S. policy in the Middle East. Last week, senior officials including Kerry (who was labeled as “obsessive” and “messianic” by Ya’alon) and Susan Rice, the national security advisor, refused to meet with Ya’alon on his trip to Washington, and it’s hard to blame them. (Kerry, the U.S. official most often targeted for criticism by right-wing Israeli politicians, is the only remaining figure of importance in the Obama administration who still believes that Netanyahu is capable of making bold compromises, which might explain why he’s been targeted.)
“The Israelis do not show sufficient appreciation for America’s role in backing Israel,” the head of the Anti-Defamation League told me.

One of the more notable aspects of the current tension between Israel and the U.S. is the unease felt by mainstream American Jewish leaders about recent Israeli government behavior. “The Israelis do not show sufficient appreciation for America’s role in backing Israel, economically, militarily and politically,” Abraham Foxman, the head of the Anti-Defamation League, told me. (UPDATE: Foxman just e-mailed me this statement: "The quote is accurate, but the context is wrong. I was referring to what troubles this administration about Israel, not what troubles leaders in the American Jewish community.")

What does all this unhappiness mean for the near future? For one thing, it means that Netanyahu—who has preemptively “written off” the Obama administration—will almost certainly have a harder time than usual making his case against a potentially weak Iran nuclear deal, once he realizes that writing off the administration was an unwise thing to do.

This also means that the post-November White House will be much less interested in defending Israel from hostile resolutions at the United Nations, where Israel is regularly scapegoated. The Obama administration may be looking to make Israel pay direct costs for its settlement policies.

Next year, the president of the Palestinian Authority, Mahmoud Abbas, will quite possibly seek full UN recognition for Palestine. I imagine that the U.S. will still try to block such a move in the Security Council, but it might do so by helping to craft a stridently anti-settlement resolution in its place. Such a resolution would isolate Israel from the international community.

It would also be unsurprising, post-November, to see the Obama administration take a step Netanyahu is loath to see it take: a public, full lay-down of the administration’s vision for a two-state solution, including maps delineating Israel’s borders. These borders, to Netanyahu's horror, would be based on 1967 lines, with significant West Bank settlement blocs attached to Israel in exchange for swapped land elsewhere. Such a lay-down would make explicit to Israel what the U.S. expects of it.

Netanyahu, and the even more hawkish ministers around him, seem to have decided that their short-term political futures rest on a platform that can be boiled down to this formula: “The whole world is against us. Only we can protect Israel from what’s coming.” For an Israeli public traumatized by Hamas violence and anti-Semitism, and by fear that the chaos and brutality of the Arab world will one day sweep over them, this formula has its charms.

But for Israel’s future as an ally of the United States, this formula is a disaster.

Angelika R (143)
Saturday November 1, 2014, 4:15 pm
that is the reason why Sam preferred to post the HORTER story on the same incident.People tend to skip reading long artices.. thanks anyway Jess-you now I read it already as soon as it came out

Angelika R (143)
Saturday November 1, 2014, 4:23 pm
oops, read SHORTER.. -and, if possible, overread the subtle slightly pro-Israel /anti-arab tune in the article.. ;-)

Carrie B (306)
Saturday November 1, 2014, 4:34 pm
We ~ the U.S. ~ would be so much better off if we severed our ties with the corrupt Israeli government. Our position in the middle-east would improve significantly. By backing Israel we are telling the world we condone its actions in Palestine and its continued persecution of the Palestinians ~ especially those who are suffering such unspeakable horrors in Gaza.

Angelika R (143)
Saturday November 1, 2014, 4:42 pm
correct Carrie-and nothing new either . In short: Israel AND US are collecting and creating enemies while spending every buck-incl. those they do not have or own- on oiling the miitary machine-in the words's literal double meaning.

Rose Becke (141)
Saturday November 1, 2014, 4:44 pm
I agree with Carrie

fly bird (26)
Saturday November 1, 2014, 5:00 pm
I noticed "the subtle slightly pro-Israel /anti-arab tune in the article.." Worth looking at, as a whole.

Stephen D (58)
Saturday November 1, 2014, 5:38 pm
Why is Netanyahu`s reply omitted from the article? I seen it nowhere.

Kathleen M (208)
Saturday November 1, 2014, 7:19 pm
Noted. Thanks, Jess. It's about effing time! Actually, passed time...

John C (75)
Saturday November 1, 2014, 10:00 pm
Thanks Jess. It has always been my opinion that every peace initiative made by the U.S. is our failure.
It is truly our failure because the parties involved have no "skin" in the game.

Without U.S. support Israel will have no other choice but to seek a peaceful solution.
Our own country exists by compromise between Republican and Democrat.

Israel will not compromise. Only stall for time. There will never be peace until the parties involved own the process.

Darren Woolsey (218)
Sunday November 2, 2014, 1:30 am
Perhaps if they had a different "leader" to Benjamin Netanyahu, with a different attitude and mindset, they might get somewhere.

fahad Al fahad (140)
Sunday November 2, 2014, 6:34 am
Is this problem will continue, or its is the only cloud the summer !!
America is governed by the Zionist lobby !! If America wants to take off from its ally Israel first start of the Zionist lobby is located on the inside !! Otherwise, there are a lot of problems which will be located her with Arabs and Muslims because of Israel

Angelika R (143)
Sunday November 2, 2014, 7:21 am
True Fahad, but easier said than done and THAT is surely the toughest task.
Even back as early as 1947/8, before the UN's disastrous resolution 181, (well not so much the resolution itself but the UNSC's failure to refer the legal questions of the partition plan to the Intl Court of Justice and acting in violation of the UN's own charter) the Israel /Zionist lobby was the strongest and trickiest anyone could imagine.
Henry F Grady described their power like this:
"“I have had a good deal of experience with lobbies but this group started where those of my experience had ended..... I have headed a number of government missions but in no other have I ever experienced so much disloyalty”...... “in the United States, since there is no political force to counterbalance Zionism, its campaigns are apt to be decisive.”
And since back then until now the US presidents have always chosen domestic politics (elections) over justice. That's the sad truth.

M B (62)
Sunday November 2, 2014, 3:52 pm
They must not only replace Netanyahu, but put All alike him out of political function.
I prefer the phrase "Live long and prosper" (Spock)

Darren Woolsey (218)
Monday November 3, 2014, 12:41 am
Unfortunately, logic, the mainstay of the Vulcan philosophy and way of life, has very little to do with war. Spock was, however, half Vulcan, half human, which is why he had to occasionally endure and struggle with his inner self. The Star Trek equivalent of "Jihad"

Abo r (107)
Monday November 3, 2014, 1:34 pm
Thanks Jess

Past Member (0)
Monday November 3, 2014, 3:57 pm
Israel is an island of democracy and western-ism surrounded by autocracies and factions dedicated not only to the destruction to Israel but to the destruction of the United States.

Gaza is ruled by Hamas an organization called terrorists by the United States. Israel sends economic aid into Gaza which feeds its people and medical care and in return Hamas launches rockets on Israeli cities to show their gratitude. Taken in totality, I think you are rooting for the wrong side to win.

I support Israel. I support democracy. Israel is a reliable ally largely because of Israeli national interests. It would be helpful to choose American allies based on American interests, reflecting on the reliability of potential allies such as Iraq, Afghanistan, Iran, the UAE, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Pakistan, Turkey etc.

Past Member (0)
Monday November 3, 2014, 4:02 pm
Obama has created a dangerous playing field because he supports the Muslim Brotherhood. President Obama will be gone in a few years walking away from the damage he has created. What a colossal mistake having Obama in our White House for eight years. It's democrat President Jimmy Carter redux. It took republican President Reagan to fix it. Our country will fix it again in 2016.

William Moorman (22)
Monday November 3, 2014, 4:41 pm
Obola is a muslim and Muslim and Jews have never been able to get along. Didn't Obola say America is a Muslim nation?

fly bird (26)
Monday November 3, 2014, 6:04 pm
Who is "Obola"?

Darren Woolsey (218)
Tuesday November 4, 2014, 12:55 am
The US needs to fix its home problems before its tries to start fixing other countries. . .

Angelika R (143)
Tuesday November 4, 2014, 8:11 am
Jess- "no feed trolls" ^^

Past Member (0)
Tuesday November 4, 2014, 8:56 am
People who disagree with the thread title and comments are not trolls. I'm not sure why liberals aren't capable of understanding that. I've been a Care 2 member for a long time. If you do not want anyone to disagree with your talking points why are you placing it on a public forum? Perhaps you should open a private political group and keep it there if you are uncomfortable reading a different opinion from yours?

Freedom of speech is for all of us.

Angelika R (143)
Tuesday November 4, 2014, 9:46 am
People who do not know and respect the name of the pres of the USA ARE!
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