Although abortive ‘proximity talks’ between Israel and the Palestinian Authority were unlikely to bear fruit, the Netanyahu government’s recent brazenness when dealing with Washington will have consequences for both sides of US-Israeli relations.
It is widely believed that these talks were never going to produce a long-term solution to the Israel-Palestine conflict. While that may be the case, the talks would have, at the very least, had symbolic value as a step in the right direction. They also would have proved useful for both parties involved: the Palestinian Authority could have demonstrated its continued relevance vis-à-vis Hamas and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu could have had the opportunity to mollify certain ‘peacenik’ elements of his governing coalition.
The ill-timed announcement of new East Jerusalem construction during a ‘goodwill visit’ by Vice President Joe Biden has seriously damaged US-Israeli relations. Both David Axelrod and Secretary Clinton have gone on to call the move a ‘grave insult.’ Vice President Biden, himself a long-term Israel supporter and self-proclaimed ‘Zionist,’ also condemned the move as something that undermines the peace process.
On the American side, this high-profile diplomatic insult will afford the Obama administration more political space to take a hard line on Israel. Domestic pressures from the pro-Israeli lobby will be offset by the growing consensus that the current government in Israel is abusing its special relationship with the United States. It definitely doesn’t help that this latest diplomatic insult embarrassed one of Israel’s biggest supporters in Joe Biden.
There will also be fallout on the Israeli side. Benjamin Netanyahu was either woefully ignorant of the construction approval process, or he is allowing right-wing ideology to trump long-term security concerns. Either way, the resulting damage to US-Israel relations will jeopardize his coalition in the short term. The Labor Party has already declared that it will leave the ruling coalition if there is still no progress made on Syria or Palestine negotiations by September.
The Netanyahu government needs to portray itself as interested in a negotiated solution with the Palestinians in order to maintain the integrity of its coalition. In this sense, Prime Minister Netanyahu is forced to walk a very fine line between the demands of centrist and far-right coalition partners.
Mutual mistrust also frustrates the possibility of US-Israeli coordination against Iran, one of Israel’s primary security concerns. Some combination of Israeli logistic support, direct involvement, and/or political persuasion would be essential if Washington were to launch a military strike against Iran in the next two years. The gap that separates these two administrations is now so wide that it is extremely unlikely that this kind of coordination will be forthcoming.
Expect US-Israeli relations to be strained until a new government comes to the table on one or both sides. US Special Envoy George Mitchell will likely once again switch into ‘pitbull mode’ and resume calls for a hard and permanent settlement freeze.
There is also a possibility that the Obama administration will seek to put political pressure on the Netanyahu government by making it appear that its leadership is ruining the US-Israel special relationship. One possible course of action would be to withdraw the United States’ automatic support for Israel at the United Nations- a move that was rumored to have been considered during the early days of the Obama-Netanyahu row. This would come at a key time, as allegations contained within the Goldstone Report are due to come up for discussion within the United Nations at some point within the next year.
SUMMARY OF EVENTS
March 8th - March 15th, 2010
A Pennsylvania woman in her late 40s has been charged with terror offences including using the internet to recruit militants for deadly attacks abroad.
Canada’s Prime Minister Stephen Harper announced a five-year spending plan with cuts to defense, international aid and government operations in a bid to be the first Group of Seven country to erase its deficit after the global financial crisis.
Public services and transport in Greece have ground to a halt as workers stage a third general strike in protest at the government's austerity measures.
Israel's announcement of plans to build 1,600 homes for Jews in East Jerusalem was "destructive" to peace efforts, a top aide to Barack Obama says.
The US vice-president has said there should be no delay in resuming Israeli-Palestinian peace talks.
French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner says he is hopeful that members of the U.N. Security Council will soon agree on new sanctions against Iran.
Preliminary results from Iraq elections show the grouping of PM Nouri Maliki is leading in two southern provinces, the electoral body says.
Saturday's bomb attacks in the southern Afghan city of Kandahar were a warning to US and Nato forces, the Taliban say.
Afghan President Hamid Karzai told Pakistan on Thursday his country did not want to become a battle ground for proxy wars and welcomed an offer from Islamabad to help with peace efforts.
The US military has used drones to attack suspected terrorists in Pakistan since at least 2004. Proponents of the small, unmanned planes say they are capable of "surgical strikes" that reduce civilian casualties and effectively combat terrorism.
A US-born spokesman for al-Qaeda has been arrested in Karachi, Pakistani security officials have said.
Two suicide bombers have killed at least 45 people in the Pakistani city of Lahore, officials say.
China's demand for oil jumped by an "astonishing" 28% in January compared with the same month a year earlier, the International Energy Agency (IEA) says.
A stronger Chinese navy will not seek to build military bases overseas, a retired senior officer has said amid media reports that the country harbors such "ambitions".
Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi said Sunday that enhanced cooperation among Brazil, Russia, India and China, or the BRIC countries, is beneficial to the world.
North Korea plans to head back to the bargaining table early next month for talks aimed at ending its nuclear weapons program, a news report said Saturday.
Eritrea continued to support last year armed Islamist groups fighting the Somalian government in violation of an arms embargo and new UN sanctions, UN experts concluded in a report.
Sheik Ali Mohamud Raghe (Sheik Ali Dere), the spokesman of Harakat Al-shabab Mujahideen has Thursday held press conference in Mogadishu claiming victory over bitter fighting that left 35 dead, injuring more than 80 in north Mogadishu.
A senior insurgent leader from Hizbul Islam has been shot to death in Mogadishu, deepening a leadership crisis inside the Islamist rebel group. The official, Bare Ali Bare, was an outspoken critic of Hizbul Islam's one-time ally, al-Shabab, raising speculation that the militant group carried out the assassination.
Ottawa has opened a new front in its global conflict with Islamic extremism by joining the attack on al-Shabab, an al-Qaeda-affiliated terrorist group in East Africa that draws young recruits and support from Canada and around the world.
Scores of people have been reported killed in suspected religious clashes near the central Nigerian city of Jos.
Nigerian authorities have arrested nearly a hundred people in connection with attacks near the central city of Jos that killed more than 500 people.
The governor of Nigeria's Plateau state has accused military commanders of ignoring warnings of an attack on Sunday near the city of Jos.