By George S. Hishmeh – Washington, D.C.
Believe it or not, Benjamin Netanyahu may be coming back to Washington next weekend. The Israeli prime minister has apparently wiped the spit – – not rain – – off his head, which he earned after his stressful encounter with President Barack Obama last month on ending illegal Israeli settlement construction on occupied Palestinian land, especially in East Jerusalem where the Palestinians hope to establish their capital. But whether he will have his tail tucked between his legs remains to be seen.
The Israeli prime minister will be one of 40 world leaders expected to participate in the April 12-13 nuclear security summit conference, sponsored by President Obama, “to enhance international cooperation to prevent nuclear terrorism.” What he may have to say here will be eagerly watched by all those who are eagerly awaiting any revelation about Israel’s nuclear arsenal.
Whatever, the serious dip in U.S.-Israel ties in these few weeks has reached unprecedented levels and the American president can feel comfortable that his stance is backed by the American military establishment and public opinion in the U.S., even in Israel.
General David Petraeus, the commander of U.S. forces in the Middle East, believes the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is fomenting anti-American sentiment in the region due to the perception of U.S. favoritism towards Israel. In his view, an Arab-Israeli settlement is an urgent American strategic interest.
Additionally, a just released Zogby Interactive survey revealed that more than four-in-five Americans (81%) agree that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict has a negative impact on U.S. interests, including a majority of both Democrats (88%) and Republicans (77%). More significantly, 51% of Americans believe that the inability to stop Israeli settlements makes the U.S. less respected in the world.
Even Israelis are now unhappy about their self-righteous prime minister. A poll published in Maariv, the Israeli daily, said that more than 48% described U.S.-Israeli relations as bad, compared to 14% who said it was good and 37% described it as reasonable.
In Europe, the tide is also rising against the right-wing Israeli regime. Israeli diplomats in Europe expect “an even more serious row with the European Union,” reported Haaretz. While on a visit to Washington this week, French President Sarkozy announced that he stands with the United States in condemning Israeli settlement activity in Arab East Jerusalem. He also praised Obama for trying to engage the two sides in peace talks. The "absence of peace" in the region "is a problem for all of us" —— and that it feeds terrorism around the world.
Whether Netanyahu makes it to Washington for the summit conference, the more important issue as far as the American administration is concerned is will he bring along in his suitcase, or send his written commitments vis-a-vis the peace process as demanded by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. According to Haaretz, the request stems from the American experience that the U.S. administration has been “burned all too often by Israel’s ‘wink and fudge it’ policy, and believes that the if the spoken word has no meaning, perhaps the written word will have greater validity.”
It continued: “Experienced Israelis and Americans need not search the archives to find documents and agreements that the Israeli government signed but in the end became no more valuable than wrapping paper.”
The blunt editorial that appeared in Haaretz contrasts sharply – and agonizingly – with the letter that 327 members of the U.S. House of Representatives sent Secretary Clinton (strangely, not Obama): “We are writing to reaffirm our commitment to the unbreakable bond that exists between our country and the State of Israel and to express to you our deep concern over recent tension. Our view is that such differences are best resolved quietly, in trust and confidence, as befits longstanding strategic allies.”
That is the same line advocated by the pro-Israel lobby, known as the American Israeli Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) at their annual conference here last month. But in a public slap against the lobby, often described in the U.S. media as “influential” or “powerful,” the liberal Jewish group known as J Street released a poll that said that by a margin of four-to-one (82%-18%) American Jews support the U.S. playing an active role in helping to resolve the Arab-Israeli conflict. And 73% of those they do so even if it meant that the U.S. were to “publicly state its disagreements with both the Israelis and the Arabs.”
In a nutshell, all this means that Netanyahu’s days in office are numbered, certainly when he has in his coalition right-wing extremists like the ministers of foreign affairs and interior, Avigdor Lieberman and Eli Yishai, respectively.
– George S. Hishmeh is a Washington-based columnist. He contributed this article to PalestineChronicle.com. Contact him at: firstname.lastname@example.org.