U.S. in Distress Over Israel's Confrontational Policies

Washington has made it clear that rhetorical juggling and slogans are no longer enough to save Israel from the Palestinian initiative.


The summoning of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to an urgent meeting with U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry in Rome testifies to Washington’s distress over the government’s confrontational policies. The United States doesn’t want Israel to find itself in an impossible dilemma that is liable to undermine the good relations between them; it wants Israel to demonstrate realistic political vision and present a road map for resolving the conflict.

Washington’s patience is indeed praiseworthy. Although the pursuit of an Israeli road map during Netanyahu’s two-year term turned out to be the pursuit of a mirage, Washington has continued to back Israel’s positions. Even today it is expecting Netanyahu to produce an argument persuasive enough to allow it to veto the Palestinian initiative at the United Nations.

But one can predict with a high degree of certainty that Netanyahu will come to Rome empty-handed. Netanyahu and his government have yet to assimilate the diplomatic upheavals in the region that have brought about a new type of coalition. Arab and Western nations are focusing on a new enemy and threat, the Islamic State, against which they are uniting their forces. And while Israel is not part of these coalitions and these new alliances were not formed at Israel’s expense, its policies in the territories make it difficult for the United States to conduct an efficient and coordinated war with its partners. Those partners want the United States to work toward resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, or at least to let the Palestinians advance their interests in the international arena.

The government has been shrugging its shoulders at the pressure exerted by European initiatives, among them recognizing a Palestinian state and declared intentions to boycott Israeli goods, but the snowball that began with Sweden’s recognition of a Palestinian state is growing rapidly and threatens to sweep up the United States too.

This is the primary, if not the only reason Netanyahu was summoned to Rome. This is no longer a consultation about how to block the Palestinian initiative, but about how to find a compromise between the French proposal to allocate two years for reaching an Israeli-Palestinian agreement, and the Palestinian draft resolution, which calls for a withdrawal from the West Bank and East Jerusalem in two years. Both seek to set a date for ending the occupation, making them hard for the United States to veto because they are consistent with U.S. policy, and certainly with its interest in preserving the coalition of pro-Western Arab nations.

Washington has made it clear that rhetorical juggling and slogans are no longer enough to save Israel from the Palestinian initiative. This time the status of the United States in the Middle East and the war on terror are at stake. The United States expects Netanyahu to come to Rome as a partner, not as an opponent.