Relations between Israel and the Obama Administration have reached a new low, to the point where should President Barak Obama be reelected in November, the United States might become more selective in its veto of anti-Israeli resolutions at the United Nations.
There is a growing feeling in Washington Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is pushing too hard for punitive action against Iran's nuclear program and that he is threatening to get the US into yet another conflict it neither needs nor desires.
Senior officials who have their ears very much in tune with the mood of the country suggest that what has in the past been strong support for Israel among the American people would be overwhelmed if it meant that the US would be dragged into an all-out war against the Islamic Republic.
They further suggest that a second-term Obama Administration might order its UN delegation to abstain on any resolution calling for an end to Israeli settlements on the West Bank.
Signs of a split surfaced recently at an astonishing meeting between Netanyahu and the US Ambassador to Israel, Daniel Shapiro.
What was ostensively a routine event to introduce the Chairman of the House of Representatives Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, Mike Rogers, to the Israeli Prime Minister began with Netanyahu launching into his usual complaints against the Obama Administration – that it was not aggressive enough on the Iran issue.
"Instead of effectively pressuring Iran, Obama and his associates are pressuring us not to attack the nuclear facilities," he is reported as saying, also denying the US position that there was still room for diplomacy. "Time has run out."
But instead of listening quietly Shapiro, who has been one of Obama's closest advisers and would certainly have knowledge of his current thinking, hit back, accusing the Prime Minister of distorting Obama's position. He said the President had made it clear the US would not allow Iran to possess a nuclear weapon and that all measures to prevent this, including military ones, were on the table.
However, he made it clear it would be Washington, acting on the best advice, that would decide if diplomacy was exhausted, not Netanyahu.
Observers described the conversation as tense, angry and close to a shouting match, while Rogers looked on, stunned.
At almost the same time as this meeting was taking place a correspondent for the Yedi'ot Aharonot newspaper in Washington reported that America's senior military official, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Martin Dempsey, said he did not want his country "to be complicit" in any attack on Iran initiated by Israel. He denied that the US would automatically have to join an Israeli strike.
"American forces are not interested in doing so – the international coalition imposing sanctions on Iran would fall apart in the event of a premature Israeli attack," Dempsey is reported as saying.
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About the Author
Graham Cooke has been a journalist for more than four decades, having lived in England, Northern Ireland, New Zealand and Australia, for a lengthy period covering the diplomatic round for The Canberra Times.
He has travelled to and reported on events in more than 20 countries, including an extended stay in the Middle East. Based in Canberra, where he obtains casual employment as a speech writer in the Australian Public Service, he continues to find occasional assignments overseas, supporting the coverage of international news organisations.