A Strained Relationship

Jan 21, 2013 Published under Israel, United States

Israeli Diplomat Alon Pinkas publicly berates Prime Minister Netanyahu for jeopardizing Israel’s vital alliance with the United States in his Yedioth Ahronot piece. Read Pinkas’s full article after the jump.

Spotted by Daniel Lubetzky, by Julianna Storch


By Alon Pinkas | Published in Yedioth Ahronot
January 17, 2013

‎US President Barack Obama told the State of Israel what he really thinks about Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu.  Not what he thinks about Israel, about the United States’ ‎political and military support for Israel, about the peace process or about Iran.  He said, simply and clearly, what he thinks about Israel’‎s prime minister and where he is leading Israel.

‎These are grave, alarming statements, which are without precedent and not unrelated to the words of the former GSS director, Yuval Diskin.  Israel is an ally.  Netanyahu?  That is doubtful.

‎It does not matter whether the president of France, the chancellor of Germany, the prime minister of Britain and the chairman of the Council of Sages of Planet Krypton think the same.  This is the president of the United States.  There is also no importance to the pointless and sanctimonious discussion of President Obama’‎s “‎intentions” ‎or the “‎timing.”  ‎There is no revenge here, nor will there be.  This is Obama’‎s opinion of Netanyahu.  It would be best to listen to what the US president has to say about the prime minister of the ally, Israel, and understand in depth the content and the ramifications.

‎The president, similarly to the incoming secretaries of state and defense, thinks that Israel is leading itself to international isolation and to a diplomatic catastrophe.  Netanyahu’‎s response was contentious and sad, because it reflected a lack of understanding of the meaning of Obama’‎s statements.  “‎Netanyahu will not withdraw to the 1967 borders and will not enable Iran to obtain nuclear weapons.”  ‎The Netanyahu government will also not permit the Romans to re-conquer Jerusalem and will fight against the White Paper and the British Mandate.

‎In the 65 years of its existence, Israel has attained one huge strategic asset: The relationship with the United States.  This is an alliance, a political and security force multiplier and a mainstay of Israel’‎s power of deterrence since the 1970s.  From the standpoint of the US this is not a natural and historic alliance.  It developed slowly and gradually, with a great deal of irrigation, fertilizing and attention, not as something that can be taken for granted.

The partnership of values, the identical ideological basis in the self-image of both countries, the shared strategic interests and the cultivation of security and political relations that are founded on basic trust and basic credibility.  Netanyahu has succeeded, with his crude arrogance, in shaking the foundation of this relationship by removing the trust and credibility from the equation.  Since the erudite and admonishing lecture he gave in front of the White House cameras, Netanyahu has effectively and irresponsibly declared a work dispute with the US president, and has not missed a single opportunity to clash without any benefit or goal.

‎This does not mean that Netanyahu is not right on the issues.  It means that he behaves defiantly and provocatively.  It means that he is putting at risk the vitality and quality of the intimate, candid and credible dialogue on issues of strategic significance such as Iran, Syria or Pakistan, in an era in which the focus of US foreign policy is shifting to the Far East, and the dependence of the US on Middle East oil is close to zero.

‎Netanyahu is jeopardizing the quality of the strategic alliance with the US by his meddling in American politics, but mainly by the deficit of trust and credibility that he has created with the White House.  Israel is not the “‎strategic asset” ‎for the US it imagines itself to be, and to the same degree nor is it the “‎liability” ‎its critics depict it to be.  A “‎strategic asset” ‎is the alliance with the United States in and of itself.  This is an alliance between two non-symmetrical countries.  It is, by definition, an asymmetrical alliance, which also has a major element of dependence.

‎For this reason, the US president—‎who was elected by a coalition of voters that has no interest in Israel—‎feels comfortable enough to express his opinion.  Therefore, it would be advisable for the smaller partner in this alliance to listen, and not to fulminate.

Alon Pinkas is an Israeli diplomat and former Consul General of Israel in the United States. He is currently a foreign affairs analyst for Fox Television and the Israel Policy Forum’s Contributing Israeli Fellow.

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