U.S.-Israeli relations, if not strained enough, might be in for even rockier times, writes Wilson Center scholar Aaron David Miller.
Miller, a former Middle East negotiator, asserts that Obama’s indecision over how to approach Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu over the course of three years means the only way out of the chilled relationship is to find a joint venture to make both parties look good.
It’s worth pointing out that tensions between American presidents and Israeli prime ministers are fairly common, particularly between Democratic presidents and tough Likud prime ministers. Two things tend to ameliorate them, but only temporarily. The first is a joint project, usually an Arab-Israeli peacemaking one, in which both sides invest in the other and come out looking good. Examples include Jimmy Carter and Menachem Begin’s peace treaty with Egypt; Bush 41 and Yitzhak Shamir’s Madrid peace conference; Sharon and Bush 43’s “war on terror.”
The second fix doesn’t so much ameliorate the problem as eliminate it. That would be the political defeat of one or the other and the emergence of a new cast of characters that can create a more functional relationship. This is precisely what happened in the case of Bush 41 and Shamir — Clinton and Rabin emerged to take their place. In the case of Carter and Begin, Ronald Reagan became president — one of the most pro-Israel presidents in American history. Even so, he too wrangled with Begin, although the American-Israeli relationship got stronger.
If Miller is right that Israeli-Palestinian peace is not going to be that joint project, will it be Iran?