Personal relationships between the leaders of major countries do not often make the news, but in the case of President Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu, the deteriorating situation has warranted extensive media coverage.
Take for instance, the recent Wall Street Journal report citing U.S. officials as being convinced that Netanyahu and his national security team are “reckless and untrustworthy,” and counter-retorts by Israeli officials that Team Obama is “weak and naïve.”
So, here we are.
Israel enjoys a privileged relationship in American society and politics. Such is Israel’s influence among the American people, that it sometimes seems to exceed even that of our government.
It is for this reason that Netanyahu does not seem to worry about a cooling, if not a chill, in his relations with Obama.
In fact, Netanyahu is to an extent even more influential with Congress than Obama is. Now that’s power!
Yet, this situation helps neither country, and may be detrimental to Israel in the long run.
Generally though, such an image of an ineffective government hurts the United States, particularly in its ability, or lack thereof, to influence developments in the Middle East.
The truce talks between Israel and Hamas, for example, are being in held in Cairo with Egyptian mediators, unfortunately, instead of American ones.
Also keep in mind also, that the United States has numerous interests in the Middle East, besides Israel, no matter how important that is, and it is, that cannot be ignored.
Across the Arab world is Iran, a large, populous country with a rich history and a strong military force, which often plays a key role in the region.
Iran has been isolated for 35 years, since the seizure of the U.S. Embassy there and the ensuing 444-day hostage crisis, but that has not kept Iran from being a problem. To the contrary, it has remained a thorn in the side of the United States and its allies.
That Obama seeks to end this impasse and give Iran the benefit of the doubt in negotiating an end to its nuclear weapons program has not made him popular in Netanyahu’s eyes.
But it is the right policy. At least let’s give it a try, until and unless we are proven wrong.
Already, though the benefits of cooperation are yielding positive results: for example, it is the US-Iran cooperation that caused Nouri al-Maliki, Iraq’s Prime Minister, to resign, after initially vowing to remain in power in defiance of the country’s President having replaced him.
Moreover, it is Iran-US cooperation that enhances the Kurds to fight Muslim extremists that are also enemies to Israel.
This fledgling U.S.-Iran détente, therefore, is not only in America’s best interest, but also Israel’s.
Let’s give it the benefit of the doubt.