The New York Times’ report on the administration’s reaction to Gaza is telling. “[T]he government of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has largely dismissed diplomatic efforts by the United States to end the violence in Gaza, leaving American officials to seethe on the sidelines about what they regard as disrespectful treatment.” Seething that Israel would not accept terms imported from Qatar and felt it necessary to defeat an enemy bent on its destruction? Yup, that’s the sort of thing that really fries this administration. Even worse, the State Department, on background of course, says that it’s over-the-top condemnation of an Israeli strike and civilian causalities was meant to “box them in internationally.” Then the administration threw a fit when Israel’s free and independent media and background sources criticized Secretary of State John F. Kerry’s diplomatic blunder. (Did they see what the U.S. media said about Kerry? What Israelis say about their own government?)
The bottom line is relations with Israel have never been so bad for so long. The Times muses that “the chronic nature of this tension is unusual — and, according to current and former officials, rooted in ill will at the very top. ‘You have a backdrop of a very acrimonious relationship between the president and the prime minister of Israel,’ said Robert M. Danin, a Middle East expert at the Council on Foreign Relations.”
It’s not really the president per se, but the policies and rhetoric he’s used, starting with the Cairo speech (that analogized Palestinians to enslaved African Americans and implied that Israel’s claim to the land was based on Holocaust guilt), continuing through the out-of-control condemnations of Israel issuing building permits in its capital and up to the administration blaming Israel for the collapse of the “peace process” and negotiating a rotten interim deal with Iran, which seeks to wipe Israel off the map. Ambushing Netanyahu with a new position on the “1967 borders” didn’t help either.
It’s almost a certainty that if the president hadn’t gone bonkers over settlements, hadn’t staked his foreign policy on an impossible peace process, had stood his ground in the P5+1’s talks with Iran and not berated Israel publicly for failing to use sufficient caution (what do they possibly know about how much caution is being taken?), relations would be better. How do we know most of the rift is Obama’s fault? Our other allies — Jordan, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, etc. — are just as fed up with him as is Israel. Only in Obama’s mind is everything someone else’s fault.