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

DRC Tries Mega-Farms to Feed Population

Park at Boukanga Lonzo currently has 5,000 hectares under cultivation, crops stretching as far as eye can see, and is start of ambitious large-scale agriculture plan More

Video Survivor Video Testimonies Recount Horrors of Guatemalan Genocide

During a conflict that spanned more than three decades, tens of thousands of indigenous Mayans were killed More

Video War, Drought Threaten Iraq's Marshlands

Areas are spawning ground for Gulf fisheries, a resting place for migrating wildfowl, source of livelihood for fishermen and herders who have called the marshes home for generations More

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.
Nobel Prize Winner Malala Talks to VOAi
X
August 31, 2015 2:17 AM
Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai met with VOA's Deewa service in Washington Sunday to talk about women’s rights and unveil a trailer for her new documentary. VOA's Katherine Gypson has more.
Video

Video Nobel Prize Winner Malala Talks to VOA

Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai met with VOA's Deewa service in Washington Sunday to talk about women’s rights and unveil a trailer for her new documentary. VOA's Katherine Gypson has more.
Video

Video War, Drought Threaten Iraq's Marshlands

Iraq's southern wetlands are in crisis. These areas are the spawning ground for Gulf fisheries, a resting place for migrating wildfowl, and source of livelihood for fishermen and herders. Faith Lapidus has more.
Video

Video Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalates

Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Rebuilding New Orleans' Music Scene

Ten years after Hurricane Katrina inundated New Orleans, threatening to wash away its vibrant musical heritage along with its neighborhoods, the beat goes on. As Bronwyn Benito and Faith Lapidus report, a Musicians' Village is preserving the city's unique sound.
Video

Video In Russia, Auto Industry in Tailspin

Industry insiders say country relies too heavily on imports as inflation cuts too many consumers out of the market. Daniel Schearf has more from Moscow.
Video

Video Scientist Calls Use of Fetal Tissue in Medical Research Essential

An anti-abortion group responsible for secret recordings of workers at a women's health care organization claims the workers shown are offering baby parts for sale, a charge the organization strongly denies. While the selling of fetal tissue is against the law in the United States, abortion and the use of donated fetal tissue for medical research are both legal. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video Next to Iran, Climate at Forefront of Obama Agenda

President Barack Obama this week announced new initiatives aimed at making it easier for Americans to access renewable energy sources such as solar and wind. Obama is not slowing down when it comes to pushing through climate change measures, an issue he says is the greatest threat to the country’s national security. VOA correspondent Aru Pande has more from the White House.
Video

Video Arctic Draws International Competition for Oil

A new geopolitical “Great Game” is underway in earth’s northernmost region, the Arctic, where Russia has claimed a large area for resource development and President Barack Obama recently approved Shell Oil Company’s test-drilling project in an area under U.S. control. Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Philippine Maritime Police: Chinese Fishermen a Threat to Country’s Security

China and the Philippines both claim maritime rights in the South China Sea.  That includes the right to fish in those waters. Jason Strother reports on how the Philippines is catching Chinese nationals it says are illegal poachers. He has the story from Palawan province.
Video

Video China's Spratly Island Building Said to Light Up the Night 'Like A City'

Southeast Asian countries claim China has illegally seized territory in the Spratly islands. It is especially a concern for a Philippine mayor who says Beijing is occupying parts of his municipality. Jason Strother reports from the capital of Palawan province, Puerto Princesa.
Video

Video Ages-old Ice Reveals Secrets of Climate Change

Ice caps don't just exist at the world's poles. There are also tropical ice caps, and the largest sits atop the Peruvian Andes - but it is melting, quickly, and may be gone within the next 20 years. George Putic reports scientists are now rushing to take samples to get at the valuable information about climate change locked in the ice.

VOA Blogs