Analysis: Israel’s crisis with the US won’t end when Obama leaves
Netanyahu fears a diplomatic move from Obama toward the end of his presidency, but it’s not certain that America’s next leader won’t have similar ambitions.
Ahead of Passover, in which we mark the Exodus from Egypt and boast of our thriving political independence, it is interesting to take note of the degree to which Israelis are in denial of the fact that this independence is limited. Israel is an independent and sovereign nation, a true wonder in which Jews do everything for themselves – but our diplomatic and security dependence on the United States was and remains the keystone of our relations to the world.
The knowledgeable ignorance of most Israelis in regard to the important and dramatic ties with the US enables us to view in a lightly amused air the elections in America: to be angry at Obama, to mock American naivete and to ignore the ever-growing gap between us and them.
Before diving into this relationship, it must be noted that the numbers don’t lie: they show stability and even a rise in the US public’s support for Israel, especially versus the Palestinians, to a tune of approximately 70 percent approval. Our main problem is that among liberal Democrats – who represent the elites – there has been a decline in support.
So we can snort in contempt at the trend and tell ourselves that we’re better off focusing on the Bible belt of the white majority who love Jesus and Jews, and not on the annoying professors at Berkeley and the sanctimonious politicians in Washington. But we must also think how we can stop this slide, and take into account its consequences. Because the elites, both there and here, manage relations and bureaucracy, and the feeling is that Israel has become a sort of annoyance.
Take for example the main diplomatic issue facing the prime minister – negotiations on an American military aid package for the next ten years. It’s stuck. Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon and his staff speak of needs, but Benjamin Netanyahu did not travel to the US because there is a problem. The problem is political. Netanyahu set an unreachable goal.
In closed conversations he spoke of a dramatic increase in aid. Today, the aid stands at about $3.6 billion a year. That means that if the US is prepared to give us 34 billion dollars in the next decade – that would maintain the current situation, more or less. Netanyahu spoke about being able to get $50 billion. Since then he has hinted or suggested that that he was misunderstood, but that was the impression he gave. It was a strategic error, because now any smaller amount will be considered a failure.
Netanyahu loves to win, so he is waiting for the negotiations to turn in his favor. He says he wants to reach the deal with Barack Obama, but it’s not certain that this is true. The prime minister is especially concerned with a possible diplomatic move by Obama in the final months of his tenure, from November to January. By then it will already be clear who the next president will be and Obama will still be in the White House, with no political price to pay for his actions. Various scenarios have been rumored, including a UN resolution, defining the parameters of an agreement with the Palestinians, or perhaps a presidential speech.
The Trump Camp
What scares Netanyahu is the connection between the money and the political brazenness of Obama. The more generous the Obama administration is with military aid, the harder it can allow itself to kick the prime minister’s political butt. Who can speak out against a president who gave $45 billion for Israel’s security? Thus, Netanyahu’s negotiations are accompanied by a justified diplomatic fear. There are even those who claim that Netanyahu does not want to close the deal with Obama because he doesn’t
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