Israel 'Drains the Viagra'
from America's Credibility
order to bring U.S. interests in the region back into balance, Washington must
prove that it's a superpower with leaders that don't accept insults and punish
those who utter them. The U.S. must once and for all take account of the fact
that Iran's arrogant behavior is in part based on Israel's bullying of the U.S."
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu: When his government announced plans to build 1600 new homes on what is widely percieved to be occupied Palestinian land in East Jerusalem, it was a major slap in the face to visiting Vice President Joe Biden. It also seems to have badly damaged American credibility.
It's impossible to imagine anything
worse for the credibility of the United States in the region than what happened
to Joe Biden during his visit to Israel this week. That was the conclusion of
Aaron Miller, a senior member of the U.S. teams negotiating with Israel during
the administrations of Bill Clinton and George W. Bush. Because Miller understands
the balance of power in American-Israeli relations, he describes it as "dancing
with a bear," which becomes a problem because, as he says, "once
you start dancing with a bear, you can no longer stop and let him dance alone!"
That's what happened with the
U.S. vice president in Israel. Indeed, dancing with "the Israeli bear"
(and perhaps it would be more accurate to describe it as a wolf) led to the humiliation
suffered by the second most powerful man in America - an insult he was forced
to swallow before heading to the dinner table alongside that very bear, publicly
praising strong ties between Israel and the U.S., and offering total U.S. guarantees
for the security of the Jewish State, as "Israel's best friend in the
There are those who say that Netanyahu
decided to teach Biden and his president, Barack Obama, a lesson on the limits
of U.S. pressure on Israel they would never forget, but that wasn't the only
reason for this deliberate insult. It was also due to a desire to punish the American
president for his opposition to Israeli demands for him to allow Israeli
fighter jets to penetrate Iraqi airspace to carry out strikes against Iran.
The object of the Israeli
lesson is to inform Obama that he can't obtain what Israel considers "concessions"
on the Palestinian issue just to improve Washington's image in the Arab and
Muslim worlds. Israel wants Obama to know that it won't sacrifice its own
security and stability while the U.S. president fails to offer the "concessions"
Israelis want from the U.S. on the Iranian nuclear issue and what they see as
In sum, what Israel wants, is
to be permitted to resolve this issue in its own way, i.e. by force, or for the
U.S. to take on the task itself. In other words, this is a return to the type
of U.S.-Israel relationship that existed during the Kuwait War under Bush the
First and the Iraq War under Bush the Second: Israel agrees to be flexible on
the Palestinian front while the U.S. takes a hard line and fights wars on
behalf of Israel, in and out of the region.
This is the dynamic that puts
the Iranian issue at the very heart of the difficult relationship between
America and Israel. While the Obama Administration has come to acknowledge that
its policy of extending an open hand to Iran hasn't led to the desired result, a
fact frankly admitted by U.S. Defense Secretary Gates while visiting Abu Dhabi,
Gates also said that his government believes that the policy achieved a no-less
valuable objective: exposing the truth of Iran's intentions to the world, consequently
making it easier to arrive at a consensus on imposing sanctions against the Tehran
The Obama Administration
wants to try a policy of sanctions, hoping to reap the fruits of forcing the Ahmadinejad
government to back down from its nuclear intransigence. This was the focus of
Gates' tour of the Gulf, first by reassuring our countries about their security
in the face Iranian threats to "cut off the hands that extend toward the
oil of the "Persian Gulf" [Saudis call it the Arab Gulf], then by
obtaining their promise to participate in tightening sanctions on Iran, which would
mean primarily the United Arab Emirates and specifically the Emirate of Dubai.
Secretary Gates arrives for a visit with Sheikh Zayed Bin Sultan
Nahyan Mosque in Abu Dhabi, March 11. Gates was on a mission to
Gulf Arabs to support stronger sanctions against Iran.
However to the Gulf states, as
concerned as they may be about Iranian arrogance and sectarian political trouble-making,
nothing can compensate for the "Viagra" Israel has subtracted from Washington's
accounts. Indeed, in order to bring U.S. interests in the region back into
balance, Washington must prove that it's a superpower with leaders that don't accept
insults and punish those who utter them. America must once and for all take account
of the fact that Iran's arrogant behavior is in part based on Israel's bullying
of America. Israel's disregard for the rights of others and the demands of peace
have now reached a climax: it is showing arrogance toward the U.S. itself.