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Why Israel Is Nervous

3:56 PM, Aug 1, 2009 • By JOHN MCCORMACK
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Elliott Abrams writes in the Wall Street Journal:

no other administration, even among those experiencing considerable dissonance with Israel, started off with as many difficulties as Obama's. There are two explanations for this problem, and the simpler one is personal politics. Mr. Netanyahu no doubt remembers very well the last Democratic administration's glee at his downfall in 1999, something Dennis Ross admits clearly in his book "The Missing Peace." The prime minister must wonder if the current bilateral friction is an effort to persuade Israelis that he is not the right man for the job, or at least to persuade them that his policies must be rejected. When Israeli liberals plead for Obama to "talk to Israel," they are hoping that Obama will help them revive the Israeli Left, recently vanquished in national elections. It is hard to avoid the conclusion that Mr. Obama and his team wish former Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni had won the top job and view Mr. Netanyahu and his Likud Party with some suspicion. The result, of course, is to make personal relations among policy makers more difficult, and to make trust and confidence between the two governments harder as well.

But the Obama administration has managed to win the mistrust of most Israelis, not just conservative politicians. Despite his great popularity in many parts of the world, in Israel Obama is now seen as no ally. A June poll found that just 6% of Israelis called him "pro-Israel," when 88% had seen President George W. Bush that way. So the troubles between the U.S. and Israel are not fundamentally found in the personal relations among policy makers.

The deeper problem-and the more complex explanation of bilateral tensions-is that the Obama administration, while claiming to separate itself from the "ideologues" of the Bush administration in favor of a more balanced and realistic Middle East policy, is in fact following a highly ideological policy path. Its ability to cope with, indeed even to see clearly, the realities of life in Israel and the West Bank and the challenge of Iran to the region is compromised by the prism through which it analyzes events.

Read the whole thing.