Sunday’s tough phone call, in which U.S. President Barack Obama demanded from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that he accept an immediate cease-fire and work toward wrapping up Operation Protective Edge, reflects how infuriated the administration is with Israel, and indicates that the international line of credit Israel was being granted to conduct this military operation is starting to run out.
American suspicion and impatience were not born with the proposal made by U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry for a cease-fire – a proposal that indeed shortchanged Israel’s interests, which is why Israel rejected it and sharply criticized it. The Kerry proposal adopted the Qatari and Turkish outline – and, indirectly, that of Hamas – rather than the Egyptian proposals that served Israeli and Egyptian interests. This expresses yet again the lack of trust prevailing between the Netanyahu government and the administration in Washington.
It’s no secret that Netanyahu’s relations with the Obama administration are poor. During the 2012 U.S. presidential campaign, Netanyahu didn’t hide his support for Mitt Romney, the Republican nominee who ran against Obama. And he appointed Ron Dermer, a former Republican Party activist who is disliked by Obama’s associates, as Israeli ambassador to the United States.
This lack of trust is also strongly grounded in the more immediate past. Netanyahu played a major role in the failure of Kerry’s efforts to mediate a framework agreement between Israel and the Palestinian Authority. By his efforts to weaken Kerry and PA President Mahmoud Abbas, Netanyahu strengthened Hamas, particularly by his policy of isolating Gaza under Hamas rule from the West Bank, which is controlled by the PA. The cumulative result of Netanyahu’s actions is the positioning of Hamas as a diplomatic and military entity that outside mediators, among them our friend the United States, are seeking to placate and grant some sort of achievement, so that it will agree to stop its fire.
Netanyahu and his cabinet ministers, who lash out periodically at representatives of the U.S. government, ought to remember that Obama and Kerry are not our enemies. One can argue about the degree of sophistication and skill they’ve displayed during the current crisis, but there is no reason to doubt their friendship and desire to bring an end to this round of violence on terms favorable to Israel – even if not only to Israel. A trusting relationship between Israel and the United States is a supreme strategic asset for Israel that dare not be undermined. Netanyahu bears responsibility for protecting this asset, and any damage done to it contravenes the interests of all Israelis.
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