What’s next for Israel-US relations?

Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu is somehow backing away from the pre-election comments that there would be no Palestinian state on his watch, but is seems Israel-US relations (of maybe better to say Obama-Netanyahu relations?) are in a very bad shape with the US even suggesting it may give less support to Israel in the UN.  What is your view on the current state of Israel-US relations taking into account also Iran nuclear talks and (currently not very much existent) peace process? Read few comments.

Ahron BregmanDepartment of War Studies, King’s College London

In a 1999 secret document which I published in my new book Cursed Victory, the White House referred to Benjamin Netanyahu as “hostile”. And this is how they still regard him – a hostile prime minister. But don’t be mistaken: Netanyahu is not there by accident or mistake. He’s an authentic representative of the 2015 Israeli nation: Israel is perhaps not as nationalistic as Serbia nor as fundamentalist as say Iran, but if you mix a little bit of Serbia and a little bit of Iran you’ll get Israel. Add to it the fact that large sections of Israeli society are plain racists and you’ll understand why Netanyahu – telling these people what they wanted to hear in the election campaign – was elected. But hostile or not, Washington will have to work with Netanyahu as he’s the elected prime minister of Israel. They will do things here and there – maybe offer less support in the UN and elsewhere, but in the long run America will stand by Israel. Until when? until they realise that American values – freedom, liberty, respect to the other – are different from Israel’s. Only then will they start to distance themselves from Israel. The Americans don’t know it yet, but the values are already different.

Jonathan SchanzerVice President of Research, Foundation for Defense of Democracies

Ties are undoubtedly tense right now between Israel and the US, primarily over the Iranian nuclear program. The Israelis are concerned that a deal in the making could leave Iran with too much infrastructure that could be used to produce a nuclear weapon at a time of Tehran’s choosing down the road. This is the issue that has been at the heart of the personal friction between Netanyahu and Obama from very early on in their terms. But the idea that ties are set to weaken significantly is hard to fathom. Ties between Israel and the United States are deep across defense, intelligence, legislative, cultural and other fields. They will not easily unravel.

The one area that concerns me is President Obama’s possible willingness to allow for UN measures against Israel to pass because of Netanyahu’s shifting position on the two state solution. This strikes me as incredibly unhelpful, and something that would only make tensions worse over the two years to come.

Dov WaxmanProfessor of Political Science, International Affairs, & Israel Studies, Co-Director, Middle East, Northeastern University

The relationship between the Obama Administration and Prime Minister Netanyahu was already very bad before Netanyahu’s pre-election statements, and now they are even worse. Obama and Netanyahu seem to regard each other as antagonists, rather than as allies. It’s not only that there are major differences in their views about key policy issues concerning Iran and the Palestinians, but also there is a personal dislike and distrust between the two men. As long as Obama is in the White House, therefore, there will undoubtedly be tensions and even confrontations between the United States and Israel. The most immediate confrontation will be over a nuclear agreement with Iran. There will very likely be confrontations over the Palestinian issue in the future, especially if the Obama Administration follows through on its threat to stop automatically vetoing UN Security Council resolutions that Israel opposes. At the same time, however, the strategic relationship between the US and Israel, marked by close defense ties and cooperation, will continue unaffected. Israel will also continue to enjoy overwhelming support in Congress, especially among Republicans, and in American public opinion in general. So, overall, the US-Israeli relationship will become more difficult, more contentious, and more partisan, but it will not be broken.

Paul SchamProfessor of Israel Studies, University of Maryland

I think we will have to see over the next few weeks how much of Bibi’s move to the right was for electoral purposes (which worked it seems) or whether it means a change in policy. I think the former. We also will have to see how Obama will react to Bibi’s outrageous behavior. My sense is that both of them have good political reasons to maintain a decent relationship but that will have to be seen. The question whether Obama will protect Israel less in the UN and international bodies can only be answered when a vote occurs. But my sense is that relations are not as badly damaged as many have thought. Partly that is because Bibi needs to work with Congress, which is very pro-Israel, and Bibi is in a stronger position than he was before the election and doesn’t have to listen so much to the Israeli far right.

Chuck FreilichSenior Fellow, International Security Program, Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, Harvard University

Clearly, this is an all-time low point and I do not  foresee much prospects for improvement for the remainder of Obama’s presidency it is both personal and strategic.

With the elections over, Netanyahu will want to repair the damage, the US is too important for Israel, but he will probably feel vindicated on the Iranian issue both by the elections and Republican support and he has a fundamental choice to make – continue placing himself in the way of a major presidential foreign policy initiative which we will lose if the administration succeeds in reaching a deal with Iran, or work with the administration to shape the final deal and then participate in monitoring its implementation.

On peace process, he has already backed away from the statement re 2 states, but the administration is not accepting it, intentionally giving him a hard time. The question is whether this is short term and coordination will be renewed soon, or whether this signal a more significant change in US policy, e.g. not vetoing a UNSC resolution


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