But perhaps, too, the Obama administration has recognized an opportunity in the Ramat Shlomo crisis, an opportunity that required deepening rather than defusing the dispute – an opportunity to convey to the unloved Netanyahu, more starkly than ever before, the fateful choice he faces and the urgency of making it.
Does he want to expand home-building for Jews in the West Bank and east Jerusalem, maintain the support of the domestic political Right, offer less than the Americans would wish him to offer at the peace table should direct talks ever resume, and watch Israel’s ties to the United States falter even as Iran closes in on the bomb?
Or is he prepared to halt such building, marginalize the local hardliners, work to create a climate conducive to negotiated progress with the Palestinians, and bolster the partnership with the US, the better to ensure an effective response to the Iranian threat?
Washington may well bet that Netanyahu, being Netanyahu, will even now try desperately to please everyone – somehow bidding to square circles via a mixture of half-steps and articulacy, in order to keep the local hawks on board and at once try to heal the fractures with Washington.
But it may also be aiming to make that task unfeasible. Likud hard-liner Danny Danon asserted on Sunday that Israel is “not a client state” of the US and needs to follow its own policies as it sees fit.
But many Israelis think differently, and regard Israel, especially amid the current global battle against Iranian-spearheaded Islamic extremism, indeed to be a client state – to be existentially dependent on its relationship with the United States. Many Israelis, Washington may also gauge, would rather reconsider their prime minister than their ties to the US. [...]
With Labor starting to mutter about deadlines for diplomatic progress, and with the Israeli public perceived to be deeply invested in the best possible relationship with the US, Clinton, and more pertinently, her president, may believe they have Netanyahu cornered: Settlements or us. [...]
How can one reconcile the bitter, accusatory, public dressing-down – which will be seized upon so delightedly and exploited so effectively not merely by those who oppose Netanyahu, but by those who seek to damage Israel – with the insistent assurances, from Obama on down, including Biden last week, that the US commitment to Israel is unbreakable, that the partnership is unshakable, that the relationship, as Biden put it, is “impervious to any shifts in either country and either country’s partisan politics. No matter what challenges we face, this bond will endure”?
How do you reconcile that, even if you accept that the Obama White House is convinced that Israel, through its building beyond the Green Line, is badly harming itself, undermining the battle to thwart Iran, and damaging America’s interests in the region?
It’s not easy. It’s not easy, no matter how persuasively it can be argued that Netanyahu brought this on himself.
Fair. Balanced. American.
Monday, March 15, 2010
And one more piece on Israel
This one by David Horovitz at the Jerusalem Post: