A “Crisis” In US-Israel Relations?

There was a little kerfuffle yesterday as Goldblog reported on an Obama bigwig calling Bibi a “chickenshit.” My favorite bit of the column was this nugget:

“The Israelis do not show sufficient appreciation for America’s role in backing Israel, economically, militarily and politically,” Abraham Foxman, the head of the Anti-Defamation League, told me. (UPDATE: Foxman just e-mailed me this statement: “The quote is accurate, but the context is wrong. I was referring to what troubles this administration about Israel, not what troubles leaders in the American Jewish community.”)

Heh. But the more troubling aspect of the column is this idea that any obvious clash of views or interests between the US and Israel is some kind of “crisis”. It certainly isn’t a crisis for Obama or the US. Paul Pillar makes a good point (seconded by Larison):

Sweep aside the politically-driven fiction about two countries that supposedly have everything in common and nothing in conflict and instead deal with reality, and the concept of crisis does not arise at all.

Nor does it really matter if Netanyahu “writes off” Obama in his last two years.

Obama can get the critical nuclear deal with Iran without the Israelis and without the Congress, for that matter, and the deal will (and already has) made an Iranian nuclear bomb much less of a threat than it once may have been. With the Iranian threat neutralized, Netanyahu will have to find another excuse to justify his creeping annexation of East Jerusalem and the West Bank. But with the Iran issue bracketed, the Obama administration can adjust its UN veto in defense of Israel, expose it to greater international isolation over the occupation, and publish the official American view of what the borders of the future Palestinian state will be.

It was always Obama’s strategy to offer Israel and Netanyahu every chance to abandon its neo-colonial enterprise, to do everything possible to reassure Israel about its security (the Iron Dome/the security guarantees and arrangements proposed by Kerry), but, in the end, to pursue America’s core interests in the region, if Israel and its powerful lobby refuse to budge an inch.

I suspect the Israelis have under-estimated Obama’s steel in this regard; and they may be particularly foolish to write him off in his last two years, when a president often has more leeway in conducting foreign policy, when Obama’s long game is designed to reach a conclusion, and when the president has nothing left electorally to lose. If the end result is a tamed Iranian nuclear program and progress toward a real two-state solution, it will have been well worth waiting for, won’t it?

Know hope.