News / Middle East

    A Rocky Year for US-Israel Relations

    Vice President Joe Biden meets with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the annual General Assembly of the Jewish Federations of North America in New Orleans, 07 Nov 2010
    Vice President Joe Biden meets with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the annual General Assembly of the Jewish Federations of North America in New Orleans, 07 Nov 2010

    Multimedia

    The United States and Israel are longtime allies but 2010 saw strained relations between the two governments. U.S. President Barack Obama has made resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict a top foreign policy priority. Many in Israel have resented the pressure that the Obama administration is placing on the Jewish state to engage in peace negotiations with the Palestinians.  

    An anti-U.S. demonstration outside the U.S. Embassy in Tel Aviv in October was a rare sight in a nation where pro-American sentiment is the norm - so much so that some Israelis jokingly refer to their country as America's 51st state.

    These protesters were demonstrating against what they perceive as unjust pressure by the Obama administration to freeze construction of Jewish settlements in the Israeli-occupied West Bank.

    The U.S. administration sees the expansion of the settlements and continued Israeli construction in parts of East Jerusalem as an impediment to the Palestinians' aspirations for their own state, and to peace efforts.

    Israel sees its West Bank settlements as essential to its security.

    A low point in relations between the two allies came in March, when Israeli officials announced the approval of construction of hundreds of new Jewish homes in East Jerusalem during a visit by U.S. Vice President Joseph Biden, an action analysts said was embarrassing to the U.S. leadership.

    In a speech at Tel Aviv University, Biden condemned the Israeli move, but reaffirmed the strong ties that exist between Washington and the Jewish state.

    "Some of you legitimately may be surprised that such a strong supporter of Israel for the last 37 years and beyond, but 37 years as an elected official, how I could speak out so strongly given the ties that I share as well as my country shares with Israel but quite frankly, folks, sometimes only a friend can deliver the hardest truth," he said.

    The relationship suffered weeks later when Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu visited the White House and received what Israeli newspapers described as a cold welcome by President Obama.

    Reports said the U.S. leader snubbed Mr. Netanyahu by leaving him alone with his entourage at the White House and going upstairs to his residence. The two men did not pose for photographers as they usually do.

    The raid by Israeli commandos on an aid flotilla that led to the deaths of nine activists off the Gaza Strip in May further strained relations, although Mr. Obama did not publicly condemn Israel.

    A thaw was evident in July, when Mr. Obama and Mr. Netanyahu met at the White House, with smiles and handshakes in what observers said was a more conciliatory atmosphere.

    Shortly after, the U.S. announced the resumption of direct negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians in Washington on September 2.

    The talks stalled within four weeks after Israel refused to extend a self-imposed 10-month building freeze that expired September 26.

    Washington has since offered Israel a package of jet fighters and diplomatic guarantees in exchange for concessions on settlements.

    The U.S. president has expressed frustration during a trip to Indonesia in November after Israel's decision to build hundreds of new homes in East Jerusalem.  The president said that kind of activity is never helpful when it comes to peace negotiations.

    Yoram Ettinger is a former minister for congressional affairs at the Israeli Embassy in Washington and a consultant on U.S.-Israel matters.  He says there is a fundamental failure by the right-wing government of Mr. Netanyahu and the Obama administration to understand each other.  Ettinger says the Obama administration is focusing on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict while Israel is more concerned about the nuclear threat of Iran.

    "There are many, many sandstorms in the Middle East threatening American interests, none of which has to do with the Palestinian issue," he said.  "Why be preoccupied with such a relatively small issue when there are such dramatic threats to America's well-being?"

    Like Israeli and U.S. leaders, Ettinger says the relationship remains, at its core, unshakeable.

    He believes the electoral victory of Republicans in the U.S. House of Representatives in 2010 will improve ties in 2011 because Israel will be dealing with a U.S. president who is politically weakened, and a Congress that sees eye-to-eye with Israel on more issues.

    "Most of the roughly hundred new house members are more driven by tradition, more driven by security issues, more skeptic and hostile towards the U.N., more skeptic and hostile towards Arab and Muslim regimes, and very, very much anti-terrorism. That bodes very well for enhanced U.S.-Israel strategic cooperation," he said.

    In the Jewish quarter of Jerusalem's old city, many Israelis are hesitant to criticize the United States.

    This woman says she is cognizant of the billions of dollars in military and other aid that the United States provides Israel each year, and of the fundamental relationship that exists between the two nations.

    She says Obama will be followed by someone else.  She says Israel has overcome every difficult moment. Israelis, she says, have overcome worse things, and they will overcome this American administration as well.

    For her, better relations may come beyond 2011, in 2012, if U.S. voters decide not to give Mr. Obama a second term.

    You May Like

    Syrian Torture Victim Recounts Horrors

    'You make them think you have surrendered' says Jalal Nofal, a doctor who was jailed and survived repeated interrogations in Syria

    Mandela’s Millions Paid to Heirs, But Who Gets His Country Home?

    Saga around $3 million estate of country's first democratic president is far from over as Winnie Mandela’s fight for home overshadows payouts

    Guess Which Beach is 'Best in the US'?

    Hawaii’s Hanauma Bay tops an annual "top 10" list compiled by a coastal scientist, also known as Doctor Beach

    This forum has been closed.
    Comments
         
    There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Chinese-Americans Heart Trump, Bucking National Trendi
    X
    May 27, 2016 5:57 AM
    A new study conducted by three Asian-American organizations shows there are three times as many Democrats as there are Republicans among Asian-American voters, and they favor Hillary Clinton over Donald Trump. But one group, called Chinese-Americans For Trump, is going against the tide and strongly supports the business tycoon. VOA’s Elizabeth Lee caught up with them at a Trump rally and reports from Anaheim, California.
    Video

    Video Chinese-Americans Heart Trump, Bucking National Trend

    A new study conducted by three Asian-American organizations shows there are three times as many Democrats as there are Republicans among Asian-American voters, and they favor Hillary Clinton over Donald Trump. But one group, called Chinese-Americans For Trump, is going against the tide and strongly supports the business tycoon. VOA’s Elizabeth Lee caught up with them at a Trump rally and reports from Anaheim, California.
    Video

    Video Reactions to Trump's Success Polarized Abroad

    What seemed impossible less than a year ago is now almost a certainty. New York real estate mogul Donald Trump has won the number of delegates needed to secure the Republican presidential nomination. The prospect has sparked as much controversy abroad as it has in the United States. Zlatica Hoke has more.
    Video

    Video Drawings by Children in Hiroshima Show Hope and Peace

    On Friday, President Barack Obama will visit Hiroshima, Japan, the first American president to do so while in office. In August 1945, the United States dropped an atomic bomb on the city to force Japan's surrender in World War II. Although their city lay in ruins, some Hiroshima schoolchildren drew pictures of hope and peace. The former students and their drawings are now part of a documentary called “Pictures from a Hiroshima Schoolyard.” VOA's Deborah Block has the story.
    Video

    Video Vietnamese Rapper Performs for Obama

    A prominent young Vietnamese artist told President Obama said she faced roadblocks as a woman rapper, and asked the president about government support for the arts. He asked her to rap, and he even offered to provide a base beat for her. Watch what happened.
    Video

    Video Roots Run Deep for Tunisia's Dwindling Jewish Community

    This week, hundreds of Jewish pilgrims are defying terrorist threats to celebrate an ancient religious festival on the Tunisian island of Djerba. The festivities cast a spotlight on North Africa's once-vibrant Jewish population that has all but died out in recent decades. Despite rising threats of militant Islam and the country's battered economy, one of the Arab world's last Jewish communities is staying put and nurturing a new generation. VOA’s Lisa Bryant reports.
    Video

    Video Meet Your New Co-Worker: The Robot

    Increasing numbers of robots are joining the workforce, as companies scale back and more processes become automated. The latest robots are flexible and collaborative, built to work alongside humans as opposed to replacing them. VOA’s Tina Trinh looks at the next generation of automated employees helping out their human colleagues.
    Video

    Video Wheelchair Technology in Tune With Times

    Technologies for the disabled, including wheelchair technology, are advancing just as quickly as everything else in the digital age. Two new advances in wheelchairs offer improved control and a more comfortable fit. VOA's George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Baby Boxes Offer Safe Haven for Unwanted Children

    No one knows exactly how many babies are abandoned worldwide each year. The statistic is a difficult one to determine because it is illegal in most places. Therefore unwanted babies are often hidden and left to die. But as Erika Celeste reports from Woodburn, Indiana, a new program hopes to make surrendering infants safer for everyone.
    Video

    Video California Celebration Showcases Local Wines, Balloons

    Communities in the U.S. often hold festivals to show what makes them special. In California, for example, farmers near Fresno celebrate their figs and those around Gilmore showcase their garlic. Mike O'Sullivan reports that the wine-producing region of Temecula offers local vintages in an annual festival where rides on hot-air balloons add to the excitement.
    Video

    Video US Elementary School Offers Living Science Lessons

    Zero is not a good score on a test at school. But Discovery Elementary is proud of its “net zero” rating. Net zero describes a building in which the amount of energy provided by on-site renewable sources equals the amount of energy the building uses. As Faiza Elmasry tells us, the innovative features in the building turn the school into a teaching tool, where kids can't help but learn about science and sustainability. Faith Lapidus narrates.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora