US-Israel rupture can bring nothing good

By Dovid Efune, August 7, 2014
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Sitting with Knesset Member Dov Lipman earlier this week, I could not resist asking, tongue-in-cheek, who was less popular in Israel nowadays - Hamas chief Ismael Haniyeh or US Secretary of State John Kerry.

"Kerry is certainly not popular on the Israeli street right now," he answered, as only a politician could.

Joking aside, in my estimation, a poll to find out who is hated more would actually put them quite close.

As a result of his constant attempted impositions, condescension, double standards, hypocrisy, strategic blundering and harsh condemnations throughout Israel's Operation Protective Edge, Mr Kerry, and by extension his boss President Barack Obama, are both personas non grata in Israel.

In truth, neither were that well liked beforehand and their credibility as peace brokers was diminished after the recently concluded, nine-month peace run. But now, Mr Kerry and Mr Obama's standing in the Jewish state has been damaged beyond repair.

According to some reports, at certain points during Israel's struggle against Hamas in Gaza, it appeared as if the United States was eager to open a second, diplomatic front against the Jewish state.

In one week, the US had to deny handing the Israelis a ceasefire proposal that all but adopted Hamas's demands. There was also a harsh phone call between Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Mr Obama in the midst of an Israeli cabinet meeting in which the president called for Israel to unilaterally end its campaign against Hamas.

The US insistence on looping Hamas allies Turkey and Qatar into discussions was a source of untold frustration for Israel, as was the administration's insistence on issuing strongly worded condemnations every time Hamas-tied authorities in Gaza claimed civilian casualties from an Israeli airstrike.

This stance was especially objectionable after Mr Obama himself explained that civilian casualties are among the necessary horrors of any war in an interview with the New Yorker earlier this year.

"The way I've thought about this issue is, I have a solemn duty and responsibility to keep the American people safe. That's my most important obligation as President and Commander-in-Chief," Mr Obama said, applying a calculus the generosity of which he did not grant to the Israeli people.

But to observers of the US-Israel relationship under Mr Obama, the administration's approach to the war will come as no surprise and neither will Mr Netanyahu's reported demand that Mr Obama never "second guess me again". It has been widely reported that the two have crossed swords repeatedly over the years over both policy matters and on a personal level.

The latest spat has led eager Republican Party surrogates to yet again predict the demise of Jewish support for Mr Obama's Democratic Party. But we have seen that claim before, and it has only ever materialised to a minimal degree.

The real, irreversible damage has been done to America's standing among the Israeli public. This will have consequences for any future US attempt to broker a peace deal between Israel and the Palestinian Authority. The credibility gained during Mr Obama's widely hailed March trip to the Jewish state has now been frivolously squandered.

By deserting Israel in its hour of greatest need, the Obama administration has effectively disqualified itself from maintaining a constructive role in future peacemaking efforts in the region.

The author, based in New York, is the Editor-in-Chief of The Algemeiner and Executive Director of the Gershon Jacobson Foundation

    Last updated: 4:45pm, August 7 2014