Warning: Turbulence Ahead

It should be no surprise that Obama will further deteriorate relations with Israel after the election, should he win.

Mitt Romney has a point: Barack Obama is no Israel-lover. And if the president wins a second term, expect a major clash with Benjamin Netanyahu.

“Everybody knows that relations with Israel have never been worse.”

So thundered the venerable John McCain, foreign policy preacher and iconoclast par excellence, in a sermon from the mountain top on one of last Sunday’s talk shows. The Arizona senator was commenting on President Barack Obama’s claim last week in Palm Beach, one he has oft repeated on the campaign trail, that U.S.-Israeli ties are stronger than ever.

Having watched and worked on the U.S.-Israeli relationship for a good many years, I’ve struggled to gain some perspective on the matter. And the present moment has plenty of competition from the dramatic lows of years past: Dwight Eisenhower’s threat to sanction Israel after its 1956 invasion of Sinai, Richard Nixon’s threat to do the same if Israel didn’t attend the Geneva conference in 1973, the flap between Ronald Reagan and Prime Minister Menachem Begin over the president’s 1982 Middle East peace initiative (Begin to U.S. Ambassador Sam Lewis when informed of the speech, “Sam, this is the saddest day in my life since  I became prime minister.”), and George H.W. Bush’s war with Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir over settlements and Secretary of State Jim Baker’s denial of loan guarantees to Israel in 1991 as a result.

But these previous lows notwithstanding, McCain is on to something. Crises and tensions have come and gone, but rarely — if ever — has there seemed to be such a permanent pall over the relationship. Its dismal state is even more perplexing when one considers that the body of the relationship — security assistance and intelligence cooperation — seems sound.

What’s happening here? I’ve got a pretty simple diagnosis: Netanyahu’s policies and suspicions about American intentions have combined with Obama’s seemingly emotionless view of Israel to spell trouble. The absence of a common enterprise makes matters worse.

Full article: Warning: Turbulence Ahead (Foreign Policy)

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