Daniel Korski

US-Israeli spat ends, but may have long-term effects

US-Israeli spat ends, but may have long-term effects
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Week two and the US-Israeli spat has calmed. More than a dozen Republican and Democratic Congressmen have pressed the Obama administration to tone down its criticism, following initial outrage of Benjamin Netanyahu's plan to build 1,600 homes in the disputed East Jerusalem territory - announced during Vice President Joe Biden’s visit. Claims that the US-Israel relationship have sunk to the worst level for 35 years were rejected by Hillary Clinton. And in his first public comments on the controversy, President Obama downplayed criticism of the Israeli government over the illegal settlement expansion plan.

But I am with Israel’s ambassador to the US: there is real risk of a lasting rift with the United States. In a new Rasmussen poll, forty-nine percent of Americans asked think Israel should be required to stop constructing settlements as part of a peace deal with the Palestinians. Fifty-eight percent of voters now say Israel is an ally of the United States, while two percent view the Jewish state as an enemy. For 32 percent, the country is somewhere in between the two. But in a separate survey in August 2010 year, a whopping 70 percent of Americans rated Israel as an ally. That’s a real drop.

The US military also seems to be turning against Israel. General David Petraeus, commander of United States Central Command, reportedly worries that the US is viewed as weak, because it was incapable of standing up to Israel and could not make any progress towards establishing Palestinian statehood. There are many powerful lobbies in the US, but none as powerful as the military.

Governments make strategic blunders for a number of reasons - sometimes in wilful ignorance, other times in an effort to preserve coalitions together. It is difficult to know why Israel made the announcement while Vice President Biden was visiting the country on a peace mission. But however much US and Israeli governments try to bury the spat, a reappraisal of the relationship has just come one step closer.