Midterm Elections and Cold War Reinstate Israel as Key Player
US President Barack Obama plans to dramatize his new appreciation of Israel as America's long-trusted friend and strategic ally for the benefit of the American-Jewish and Israeli public.
One possible action, according to DEBKA-Net-Weekly's sources in Washington, is a second visit to Jerusalem by Vice President Joe Biden as a gesture of goodwill toward Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, in sharp contrast to his disastrous visit in March, when Israel's announcement of a construction project in East Jerusalem was used to inflame a deep crisis in relations.
Biden will be taxed with explaining that such incidents as the insulting reception afforded the Israeli prime minister on his White House visit on April 23 were a thing of the past and the administration was intent on putting relations back on track, with emphasis on the president's unshakable commitment to Israel's security.
Certain important gestures have already been forthcoming from Washington, although they received far less media play than the crisis.
In the first week of April, Obama ordered the Pentagon to release C-130J air transports to Israel. He had previously embargoed these aircraft because they could be used to drop Israel commando forces inside Iran in case of a decision to attack its nuclear facilities. The President had $98.6 million transferred to Lockheed Martin to pay for the delivery of the first nine transports.
Smart bombs for Israel and pursuit of American-Jewish leaders
On May 9, the President released a shipment to the Israeli Air Force of various types of smart bombs – most of them effective against the fortified locations and the weapons systems used by the Lebanese Hizballah, the Palestinian Hamas in Gaza and the Syrian army. The consignment also included Laser-Guided Joint Direct Attack Munitions system, called LJDAM, which was developed jointly by the US Boeing company Israel's Elbit for improving the accuracy of bombs fired from a maximum distance of 28 kilometers in all weathers.
On May 20, US Congress overwhelming endorsed President Obama's request for $205 million to help Israel build the new rocket defense system "Iron Dome.
Thursday, May 13, top White House aides, led by the President's Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel, Senior Advisor to the President on Iranian Affairs Dennis Ross, and NSC Middle East desk chief Dan Shapiro (whose brief includes Israel), addressed a delegation of 15 leading American rabbis.
Rahm admitted the administration had "screwed up the messaging" to Israel and said "it will take more than one month to make up for 14 months."
The White House fielded its top officials to show American-Jewish community leaders that the president was wholehearted in revising his attitude toward Israel and this group had been entrusted with following through on his directives.
Tuesday, May 18, Jewish Democratic members of the House and Senate were invited to a private meeting with President Obama and heard him admit he got "some toes blown off" making missteps in sensitive US-Israel relations. The lawmakers praised the administration's effort to put forward tough sanctions against Iran and put to rest White House recriminations against Israel.
"It was a good meeting, but it was not a feel-good meeting – everyone spoke their minds and from the heart," said Eliot Engel (D-Bronx & Westchester). "The President wants to see peace. We all want to see peace as well."
The unprecedented 90-minute meeting took place in the Eisenhower Old Executive Office Building.
Stop badgering Israel, make Palestinians pull their weight
Between the two meetings with American Jewish leaders, senior administration emissaries were dispatched to Israel with orders to secretly meet Israel figures seen by Washington as influential and convey three messages:
1. President Obama was burying the hatchet with Israel – less to get out the Jewish vote and boost his Democrats' hopes for Nov. 2 midterm elections, and more out of new strategic needs arising from the outbreak of a virtual Cold War between Washington and Moscow.
Middle East envoy George Mitchell had been instructed by the president in person to refrain from pressuring Israel to be the only side constantly badgered for concessions in the proximity talks with the Palestinians. He was told to accept Israel's limits and starting leaning hard on the Palestinians to make them pull their weight too.
2. The President's messengers reported that he had come to understand that as long as there was no one he could count on in the Arab world, the US and Israel must work together on ways to counteract the Iranian-Turkish-Syrian bloc and its input from Moscow.
Egypt's president Hosni Mubarak is too busy transferring the reins of government to his son Gemal Mubarak to be called on, while Saudi Arabia's loss of Lebanon and Hamas to the Syrian-Iranian orbit has made its king indifferent to outside events.
Moscow was capitalizing on is reputation for cooperating with Washington, but the White House knew this was an act to cover up its return to Cold War tactics against the United States.
Without saying so explicitly, DEBKA-Net-Weekly's sources report that the American officials implied that the Obama administration would soon turn to Israel to talk about resuming the intelligence partnership which was so fruitful in the Cold War years of the 1960s and 1970s.
For the moment, Prime Minister Netanyahu is taking Obama's gestures of friendship with great caution and refraining from referring publicly to the new face the White House appears to be presenting to Jerusalem. He is waiting to see what steps come next and, above all, keeping an open mind until after the November 2 elections before deciding on his response.