What happens next after the Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu's departure from Washington March 25 without a single point of agreement with US president Barack Obama and the traditional friendship buried deep under the discord?
This is not the first time an American president has targeted an Israeli prime minister whom he disliked. Usually, when the president brought all his weight to bear, he was able to contrive the Israeli leader's fall from power.
The late Yitzhak Rabin did not last long after fighting the Middle East policies laid down by Henry Kissinger and Presidents Gerald Ford and Jimmy Carter in the 1970s. He was punished by a public reassessment of US relations with Israel and the secret stoppage of the flow of financial and military assistance.
In the 1990s, Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir paid the price for opposing the Middle East Policy of President George Bush, Sr. and his Secretary of State James Baker, by Washington's refusal to approve the loan guarantees Israel badly needed at the time, an action akin to a partial economic embargo on Israel.
Shamir ended up defeated in elections.
Netanyahu had a similar experience during his first term in office when, in 1999, he clashed with Bill Clinton, who refused to believe Yasser Arafat was preparing to launch large-scale war of terror against Israel.
In all these cases, the Israeli voter punished the prime minister for the rift with America by throwing him out of office.
Barack Obama is sure history is on his side.
The only difference between then and now is the openness, swiftness and brutality of the means employed by this US president to get rid of Binyamin Netanyahu. The process has only just begun and the hammer and tongs between Washington and Jerusalem is likely to escalate before the crisis is over.
How will the Americans proceed?
Washington will start by putting its diplomatic, economic and military relations with Israel on ice. Senior US officials will forego their regular visits to Israel and the invitations to Israeli ministers will dry up, including those sent to the Israel embassy for official events. Exchanges will be kept down to inferior bureaucratic levels.
The administration will suspend its customary briefings to Jerusalem on diplomatic and strategic steps in the offing in the Middle East, as well as its hitherto standard practice of prior consultation with Israel on the implications of those steps.
In other words, Washington means to cut Israel out of its decision-making processes on Middle East affairs.
Military ties will also be demoted from reciprocal visits by top US and Israel officers to exchanges between lower ranks. Responses to Israeli requests for weapons and replacement parts and US notifications of new weapons in development will be frozen.
After stating solemnly time and again that no US government will go back on its commitment to Israel's security and defense needs, Obama administration officials cannot afford to officially admit the relations are in limbo. They will just stonewall on Israeli requests by saying: "No answer yet."
Israel's UN delegation and its representatives in international forums are in for a hard time. US ambassadors will give them the cold shoulder and, instead of vetoing or abstaining from voting on hostile UN measures and condemnations of Israel, they will vote for them, especially when they favor the Palestinians.
This will open the dam gates for a flood of anti-Israel resolutions.
American financial institutions, banks and military industries will be encouraged to follow the White House lead in ostracizing the Jewish state.
The only area of cooperation to be left untouched is intelligence, DEBKA-Net-Weekly's intelligence sources predict. Intelligence-haring is not just a keystone of US-Israeli relations, but even the White House realizes that any interruption in the operation of their joint systems would seriously imperil both countries.
And how will Israel respond?
Prime Minister Netanyahu has no illusions about the relative might of the United States and Israel and the former's overwhelming capacity to harm the Jewish state's vital interests. He will try applying soft soap for a time and pretending to the Israeli public that he is making progress in solving the crisis in relations.
But behind this front, he will work hard to shift the confrontation to the domestic US and Israeli political realms where he is more confident.
In the United States, Netanyahu will try and capitalize on the warm welcome he received on Capitol Hill Wednesday, March 24 – in contrast to his rough treatment at the White House. He will use this opening to rally US lawmakers for the application of counter-pressure to make President Obama back down from his harsh treatment of the Israeli government.
Knowing the ability of the two houses of Congress to force their will on the President in executive matters is slight, he will try and mobilize American Jewry for support and hope to persuade Jewish donors to withhold their contributions from the Democratic Party.
At home, the Israeli prime minister may try and expand his government, establishing a national unity administration to head off the White House campaign to unseat him in an early general election.
He holds a card stronger than any held by his predecessors when they found themselves in a US president's sights – and that is Iran. With nothing more to lose from the Obama administration, he would be assured of broad popular support if he decided to embark on a military operation against Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's nuclear sites. After the way he was treated in Washington, he would no longer feel obliged to consult with or even notify the Obama administration in advance.
The late Prime Minister Menahem Begin, who fell out with Ronald Reagan, overrode this US president's objections and ordered the Israel Air Force to bomb the French-built Iraqi nuclear reactor near Baghdad. A month later, he won re-election at the polls.
Such action by the Netanyahu government would throw President Obama's Middle East calculus into disarray and make him rethink his attitude toward Jerusalem.