Sunday, November 21, 2010

Ben Caspit/ US-Israel's current relations - A matter of credibility

(Ben Caspit/Maariv, translated via Coteret).National Security Adviser Uzi Arad sat in the “Meet the Press” studio and handed out grades to the Americans. Obama’s administration, Arad said, began its battle against the Iranian nuclear program with a “policy of smiles” and believed the Iranians’ talk, “but then sobered up.” In principle, Arad is right. In practice, he isn’t supposed to say that on television. After all, even without this, the Americans don’t much like us.

Arad’s candid remarks are the tip of a much bigger iceberg. At least three top Likud figures who were briefed recently by officials very close to Netanyahu on the talks with the Americans, on the letter that has not (yet) been written, on the promises that were not made and the stealth bombers that stole away, say that the prevalent view in the Prime Minister’s Bureau about the US administration is that it is “not a credible administration.” That is the reason, these sources say, for Netanyahu’s insistence on receiving the promises in writing. And that is the reason, say these sources, that some of the promises that Netanyahu heard from the Americans evaporated shortly afterwards.

True, the current US administration has shown ineptitude, poor decision-making and problematic behavior. The fact that it has refused to stand behind Bush’s letters to Sharon from April 2004 undermines the basis for any discussions with them. But you don’t say this to politicians. You think this, you take this into account, but you’re careful that it not get out. As it is, the strategic relationship between Israel and the US is at an unprecedented nadir. The level of trust between the White House and the Prime Minister’s Bureau is scraping the bottom of the barrel from below. Automatic matters, such as a veto in the UN Security Council, are now promised as a freeze bribe, and even that for a pre-allotted time period. Cold water must be poured on this, not oil.

One needs to read the article by Dan Kurtzer, the former American ambassador to Israel and Obama’s adviser, which was published yesterday in the Washington Post, to understand how big a deal this is. Kurtzer warns against the deal being cooked up between the Obama administration and Netanyahu. He calls this bribery, he says that this is a mistake both for the Americans, but mainly for Israel, he points out that such a deal would even further rock the strategic basis of the relationship between the two countries.