A Blog by the Editor of The Middle East Journal

Putting Middle Eastern Events in Cultural and Historical Context

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Some Reflections on the Netanyahu Visit

I'm still not entirely sure whether the latest flap between Israel and the US — the announcement of the approval of 20 apartments in the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood, leaked just as Bibi was about to meet with Obama — was a deliberate provocation or whether Netanyahu was blindsided by the Municipality of Jerusalem. The story is an old one dating back to last summer, and it's just that the final approval leaked out at a sensitive time, but it clearly had the appearance of another direct affront to the US on top of the earlier announcement on the eve of the Biden visit.

Bibi's having a bad week: not only a difficult visit to Washington, but the British have just kicked out an Israeli diplomat over the Dubai affair; it was reportedly the chief of Mossad's London station.

Of course as I noted previously Bibi wasn't even supposed to meet with Obama, who was originally due to be in Asia; when that trip was canceled to see the health care bill through, a meeting with Netanahu (here for AIPAC) was arranged. By all accounts, it was an uncomfortable one; this latest reappearance of the Sheikh Jarrah controversy looks like a provocation, though it's not clear if Bibi knew it was going to leak when it did.

US-Israeli relations are quite awkward right now, but what may be more interesting is the growing number of critics of Netanyahu's settlements defiance among American Jews and among mainstream Israelis. The automatic tradition (encouraged by AIPAC) of equating "pro-Israeli" with "pro-Likud" may be waning thanks to Netanyahu's intransigence and the emergence of J Street and similar groups. It reminds me of once back in the 90s when the late Yitzhak Rabin was sharply critical of AIPAC, which he saw as undermining his own policies. Netanyahu is not Israel, just its current Prime Minister.

1 comment:

David Mack said...

For a perceptive take on who is truly a good friend of Israel, I highly recommend the Robert Wright blog in today's NYT online.
You will discover that Obama, Biden, Clinton and Petraeus are true friends since they dish out some tough love. Nonetheless, they are stigmatized as anti-Israeli by the usual suspects on the pro-Likud American right wing. Professor Walt of Harvard had a similar article yesterday on the Foreign Policy site, Middle East Channel, but it lacks the bite of the NYT piece. Having attended a couple of AIPAC conferences, I can attest that the Clinton address was a rare example of diplomatic truth telling -- as compared to the usual pandering political plaudits, which would gag a maggot.