Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Administration rebuke to Netanyahu name-checks those "indissoluble bonds"

Obama often alludes to "indissoluble" or "unbreakable" bonds between the U.S. and Israel. I've long thought this unseemly, a dangerous sign of unconditional support. If the United Kingdom went fascist in ten years, would our bonds with that longtime ally be indissoluble? Relations between countries should never be unconditional (though arguably, I guess, "bonds" could endure when political alliances fray).

It's worth noting that in rebuking Netanyahu's election rhetoric seeming to delegitimize the Arab vote and disavowing commitment to a Palestinian state,  the Obama administration name-checked those "bonds":
“The United States and this administration is deeply concerned about rhetoric that seeks to marginalize Arab-Israeli citizens," Earnest told reporters aboard Air Force One. "It undermines the values and Democratic ideals that have been important to our democracy and an important part of what binds the United States and Israel together.”
More substantively, Earnest implied that the basis in international law for the U.S.'s constant protection of Israel in the U.N. is also cracking:
Earnest said the prime minister's disavowal of a two-state solution would cause the White House to reevaluate its approach.

“It has been the policy of the United States for more than 20 years that a two-state solution is the goal of resolving the conflict between the Israelis and Palestinians,” Earnest said. The United States continues to believe that a two-state solution is the “best way to defuse tensions” in the region, he said.
That's the first chill intimation of a shift that Jonathan Chait forecast yesterday:
Netanyahu now opposes yielding territory, full stop. If Netanyahu prevails, the nature of Israel's diplomatic alliance with the United States will have to change — the U.S. cannot continue to extend its U.N. veto to a country whose government has formally disavowed negotiations. 
I frankly expect the administration to walk back this rhetoric a bit, to switch to reassurance about "indissoluble ties" while expressing a gauzy faith that Israelis will "continue" to seek a just solution to the occupation.  But a shift is coming, gradually.  Netanyahu has been dropping ever more acid on those "indissoluble bonds" -- from undermining the two-state negotiations last spring to openly attempting sabotage a deal with Iran to vowing this week that he would not allow a Palestinian state.  In the process he's turned Congress's bipartisan unconditional deference to AIPAC to something a lot closer to a one-party affair and has forced a lot of American Jews to choose between himself and Obama.  That's a contest he's bound to lose -- and in the process, loosen the ties that bind U.S. middle east policy to Israel's perceived self-interest.

Update: Evidence that the administration really may be prepared to change the basis of U.S. support for Israel:
After years of blocking U.N. efforts to pressure Israelis and Palestinians into accepting a lasting two-state solution, the United States is edging closer toward supporting a U.N. Security Council resolution that would call for the resumption of political talks to conclude a final peace settlement, according to Western diplomats.
The prospective pressure is limited: a resolution supporting a two-state solution based on 1967 borders is cast as a shield against criminal court prosecution, and Israel's annual $3 billion aid booty is said to be inviolate. Still, the shift could be significant.

Update, 3/24:  Today's WSJ report (by Adam Entous) that Israel spied on the negotiations with Iran and used the intelligence to try to influence members of Congress touches on the potential fraying of bonds --twice:
Obama administration officials, departing from their usual description of the unbreakable bond between the U.S. and Israel, have voiced sharp criticism of Messrs. Netanyahu and Dermer to describe how the relationship has changed.
And:
A senior official in the prime minister’s office said Monday: “These allegations are utterly false. The state of Israel does not conduct espionage against the United States or Israel’s other allies. The false allegations are clearly intended to undermine the strong ties between the United States and Israel and the security and intelligence relationship we share.”
More on administration moves to change the relationship here: Cold fury or calculation?

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