“…when the interests and values of a US government and an Israeli government diverge this much, a reassessment of relations in inevitable,“ wrote Thomas Friedman in the New York Times on Wednesday, July 12. Senior officials in Jerusalem warily avoid interpreting this claim. They recall uncomfortably how past administrations waved the threat of “reassessment” when displeased with Israel’s conduct.
Friedman points to the Netanyahu’ government’s “unabashed locking in of a one-state solution,” the “rapid clip at which settlement construction is being approved” and its efforts “to push through far-reaching changes to weaken the judiciary.” These actions recently spurred President Biden to call this government “one of the most extreme” he’s ever seen. Departing US Ambassador Tom Nides remarked that the US only wants to prevent Israel from “going off the rails.”
When President Isaac Herzog visits Washington next week (Biden has made a point of withholding an invitation to Netanyahu), he will be armed, says Friedman, with the message that “tough love for Israel is a real necessity before it goes off the rails.”
The term reassessment conjures up disquieting memories of a former crisis in relations: In 1975, following the Rabin government’s refusal to obey Washington’s demand for a unilateral withdrawal from Sinai – in the aftermath of the Yom Kippur war – US Secretary of State Henry Kissinger froze arms deliveries to Israel, particularly F-15 aircraft. He also recommended that “every department should put Israeli activities at the bottom of the list.”
Today, President Biden’s raps on the knuckles for the Netanyahu government may not go so far. According to the NYT columnist, “military and intelligence cooperation remains strong and vital.” DEBKAfile also points to the Biden administration’s troubled relations with some other senior US allies as well. Although London and Washington boast a “special relationship,” UK prime minister Rishi Sunak is in a serious huff with Biden over his refusal to back British defense minister Ben Wallace for the post of NATO secretary general, in preference to the German diplomat Ursula von der Leyen. UK media accuse the US president of detesting all things British.
Then, the NATO summit this week was marred by the frustration voiced by Ukraine’s Volodymir Zelensky with Biden who, while his country’s foremost armorer in the war with Russia, denies alliance membership to his country “pending necessary reforms.”
Zelensky accused Biden of manipulating Ukraine as a tool for his policy against Russian President Vladimir Putin. Tempers were finally calmed enough to for the summit to issue a joint statement promising to work on “bilateral, long-term security commitments and arrangements” with the war-torn country.
In the Middle East, the US president, who hold strong views on the state of civil rights in Saudi Arabia, failed to persuade Crown Prince Muhammed bin Salman to walk away from his pact with Putin. This pact is mainly responsible for keeping oil prices high on world markets.