The Great US-Israel Showdown of the decade
The twists in the American-Israeli spat continues. It is, however, hoped that President Obama, recently relieved over his biggest victory since being elected, would turn the focus of his ire towards the erstwhile, unruly ally, Israel.
Much like a wounded Tiger, Obama is expected to lash out at Israeli Prime Minister Ben Yamin Netanyahu after his hard ball tactics over the past week which left the US Vice President, Joe Biden red in the face. On a peace process visit to Israel, Biden was slapped in the face when an announcement of 1600 new settlements coincided with Biden’s trip that has all but ended the indirect peace talks with the Palestinians and has driven US-Israel relations to a record low.
Settlements will continue as planned, is the gauntlet thrown by Netanyahu as he heads to Washington to attend the American Israel Public Affairs Committee which has on board a number of US Senators and Congressmen. The trip, while carrying ominous signs of a classical western show down, the truth is, the Obama Administration may already be shot in the leg going into this one.
A typical US capitulation is expected on Monday as always is the case. Unless, of course Obama believes.
The fact is that this time round, Netanyahu and the Israelis could have bitten off more than what they can chew. The stakes are much higher than at any other time in the history of US. With over 230,000 troops stationed in an unstable Iraq and Afghanistan and in cose proximity to a rogue-potentially-nuclear-Iran, it is important for any American Commander in Chief to care about how the situation will bode for American citizens in the direct line of fire.
Gen David Patraeus’s assessment on the Area of Responsibility last week may have colored the American policy in the Middle East. Contrary to the claims of Obama, it is unlikely that the American army can stick to its originally stated deadline to pull out of Iraq. From political instability to a dwindling security heritage being left behind. The story is similar in Afghanistan where the core problems have remained stagnant over the past five years. Karzai has been waning in power, Taliban remain resurgent, deserting and poorly trained army, and the poppy fields continue to churn out record opium.
According to Patraeus, the conditions for a win in either country, and establishing long term US respect in the region, entail abandoning a lean towards Israel. Public opinion, more than the Taliban or Al Qaeda, threaten regional stability and US integrity. Money and people to people contact are the weapons, an accomplished war man; Patraeus believes, will win the war on terror rather than drone attacks and covert operations.
The Israeli tactic is bringing one advantage, or two at best. The first, an instigation from the Palestinian for a purported third Intifada (most likely Israel sponsored propaganda) which would again help float the over rated point of Israel’s need for security. The second advantage is forcing the American public, fresh from a politically exhausting vote on health care reforms, to choose between siding the less than popular Obama Administration or being labeled Anti-Semites (in other words a Nazi, or a more popular catch phrase of today: Islamic Terrorist).
This string has been fairly constant with US officials time and time again over the past week, including the critics and victims, Clinton and Biden reaffirming that Israel continues to remain a key ally, regardless of its indiscretions. Clinton, however, keeps a weighted hand poised by going further to vanquish any misconceptions of what must be done regardless of affiliations in case of an Israeli misadventure.
Obama, at this point may not be strong politically to mount a strong reaction to Israel’s public chiding, it has, however, become somewhat a trade mark during this administration to take on the opposition at their own game to great effect. And it is home ground. Obama’s proactive approach might be the only thing that proves the difference. Exercising a choice between doing his duty as the Commander in Chief or as the politician appeasing the biggest child laden on America’s hip?
Monday now offers one of those history-in-the-making moments. What ever Obama does next will redefine the way business is conducted between America and Israel.