Israel-US relations are in crisis - and Netanyahu has misread the Americans

By Anshel Pfeffer, November 21, 2013
US Secretary of State John  Kerry

US Secretary of State John Kerry

The crisis between Israel and the United States over the impending nuclear agreement with Iran is escalating.
Last Wednesday, in a meeting with the Senate Banking Committee in Washington which was discussing a new round of sanctions on Iran, State Secretary John Kerry repeatedly said to the senators “you have to ignore what they
(Israel) are telling you. Stop listening to the Israelis on this”.

From Israel’s point of view, what was even more worrying than Mr Kerry’s words was the fact that even the Republican senators who can normally be relied upon to take Israel’s side against the Obama administration, agreed to wait until after the negotiations before deciding on new sanctions.

The administration’s position was vindicated this week when a Washington Post/ABC poll found that an overwhelming majority of 64 per cent of Americans would support an diplomatic agreement between Iran and the international community that would include limitations on Iran’s nuclear development in return for reduced sanctions.

The attempts by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to influence American policy, through repeated media interviews and open appeals to American Jews to support Israel, seem to indicate a misreading of the current mood in the US where growing fatigue from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have left both major parties with no appetite for further confrontation.

In a speech on November 10 in Jerusalem, Mr Netanyahu used strong words against the US. He accused the negotiators with Iran, including Mr Kerry, of proposing a “bad and dangerous deal” that would leave Iran the capacity to make a nuclear bomb while making significant reductions to the sanctions.

A poll found that a majority of Americans support a diplomatic agreement

The crisis between the two allies intensified when senior Israeli ministers became convinced that the administration was pursuing its own back-channel with Iran through Mr Obama’s close adviser Valerie Jarret. The belief was that she had been privately meeting Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif.

Although the White House has strenuously denied this, both in private discussions and to the media this week, the Israeli government remains convinced the Americans are going behind their backs.

One senior minister even said that “John Kerry can no longer portray himself as being an honest broker.”

Last updated: 5:45pm, November 21 2013