Forty years ago, Israel’s snag on then Secretary of State Henry Kissinger’s efforts to orchestrate a second disengagement of Israeli forces from occupied Egyptian Sinai Peninsula led President Ford to similarly reassess US-Israeli relations. The Ford administration put real teeth into its re evaluation by postponing the delivery of weapons to Israel and shelving the consideration of economic aid. This palpable pressure on Israel worked, bringing it back to the table and eventually charted the way for complete Israeli withdrawal from Egyptian territory.
There is no doubt that Prime Minister Netanyahu’s acceptance of invitation to address a joint session of Congress on Iran is prodigiously damaging to Israel-US relations. The White House is intelligibly wrathful with Israeli Prime Minister BenjaminNetanyahu, who, have craving aspiration to retain power, won Israel’s election by placing unclad racism and colonialism at the heart of Israel’s policies toward Palestinians. The damage, however, outrival the bilateral relations as it echoed and has inauspicious impacts on Israel’s relations with scores of other countries.
Israeli Prime Minister thought that he had smartly out manoeuvred the White House by contriving such a contemptuous stratagem, but he will soon realize — if he hasn’t already — that he would have descended in to such ignominy that it will haunt them for the rest of their political careers. Obama administration’s avertness to take Netanyahu’s flip-flopping seriously. To date, the Obama administration has not publicly expressed any readiness to be as audacious as Ford. Instead, conjecture about the Obama administration’s likely punitive measures has focused on the possibility of withdrawing the traditional US veto of actions in the UN Security Council critical of Israel. Neither resolution, however, would be more than symbolic and actually affect Israel’s actions, unless coupled with more palpable US pressure.
Irrespective of who the president is and which political party he is from, Americans have high veneration for the executive office of the president. Netanyahu has not only affront Obama but degrade office too. No leader with any self-respect would have dared to do what Netanyahu has brazenly done. Even if Netanyahu ended up by cancelling the visit, the damage to Israel has already been done, while inflicting extreme harm to the US’s strategic interests. The abrasion in the bilateral relationship between Israel and the US will only harden the position of Israel’s staunch enemies, who will seek to exploit it. America’s European allies, including the UK, France, and many of the Scandinavian countries, who have serious disagreements with Israel’s policies on the settlements and the continuing occupation, have not taken serious punitive actions against Israel, only because of America’s urging not to do so.
For Israel, the strength of the alliance provides security. Israelis know their ally will maintain its commitment and be limited in its ability to apply pressure to force them to take actions they oppose. The impact on the Arabs should be to dispel the persistent delusion that a wedge can be driven between the United States and Israel. Despite Israel’s reliance on America, the state of the relationship today is such that US influence on its ally is constrained. Still, no Prime Minister wants strained relations with Israel’s closest friend and the world’s most powerful nation, so it is likely Netanyahu will bend.
Considering the turmoil sweeping the Middle East and the danger Israel faces, any Israeli leader must safeguard Israel’s relations with the US because its national security depends on the US’s commitment. Even if Israel could manage without American financial aid and somehow survive without military support, it cannot endure without America’s crucial political backing, which is no longer a given because of Netanyahu’s six years of defiance and deceit. Netanyahu must remember that Obama knows that if Tehran comes any closer to reaching the breakout point in its nuclear-weapons program, the US will shoulder the responsibility because only the US can do something about it.
The Israelis should deny Netanyahu another term in office because his victory demonstrate that they are following a blind shepherd who is systematically destroying Israel’s vital relations with the US at a time when Israel is in dire need of America’s unmitigated backing. After more than six years of offering Israel more and more carrots only to be repeatedly snubbed, it is long overdue for the Obama administration to brandish the proverbial stick.
— The writer works at IPRI.