Middle East Newsline – Sept 13, 2012

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WASHINGTON [MENL] — The U.S.-Israeli relationship was said to have encountered the worst crisis since the establishment of the Jewish state in 1948.

Officials, diplomats and analysts asserted that Israel has lost all confidence in the administration of President Barack Obama. They said Obama has made it clear he no longer wants to meet Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu until after the November elections — regardless of the crisis with Iran.

“The only thing that Washington wants to hear about from Jerusalem is progress in the peace process,” Daniel Greenfield, an analyst with the Gatestone Institute, said.

In a report titled “The End of the American-Israel Affair,” Greenfield asserted that the United States expects Israel to make peace with terrorists and their state sponsors throughout the Middle East. He said this has eroded the U.S.-Israeli relationship from what was a strategic alliance in the 1980s to a single issue of achieving Arab agreement to accept the Jewish state.

The assessment of the U.S.-Israeli crisis was issued after Obama canceled plans to meet Netanyahu for late September. Officials said the president had agreed to meet Netanyahu on Sept. 28 in a session meant to focus on Iran’s nuclear program.

The White House meeting came after a series of visits by senior administration officials to Israel in which Netanyahu was urged to pledge not to attack Iran before the November elections in the United States.

Officials said Netanyahu agreed in exchange for a U.S. commitment to set what was termed “clear red lines” for U.S. intervention in Iran’s nuclear program.

But on Sept. 9, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was quoted as saying that the administration would not set red lines for possible U.S. military intervention in Iran. Ms. Clinton’s statement, officials said, sparked phone calls from Netanyahu’s office to the White House for clarification.

“We’re not setting deadlines,” Ms. Clinton said in an interview with Bloomberg News that was released by the State Department. “…We’re convinced that we have more time to focus on these sanctions, to do everything we can to bring Iran to a good faith negotiation.” Officials said the White House dismissed the Clinton assertion as a political statement that did not reflect administration policy. But on Sept. 10, they said, Netanyahu, seen by the administration as a supporter of the Republican candidate Mitt Romney, was told that his meeting with Obama was canceled.

Instead, Netanyahu and Obama spoke on the phone for about an hour on late Sept. 11.

“There was no suggestion [by the White House] of another date [for the meeting],” an official said.

Congress has been divided over the Israel-U.S. crisis. Democrats, determined to support Obama’s reelection campaign, have generally remained silent while senior Republicans questioned Obama’s commitment to Israel.

“It is puzzling that the president can’t make time to see the head of state of one of America’s closest allies in the world,” a statement by Sen. John McCain and Sen. Lindsey Graham said. “If these reports are true, the White House’s decision sends a troubling signal to our ally Israel about America’s commitment at this dangerous and challenging time.”

Over the last year, U.S. pressure on Israel has soared, diplomats said. They cited the reduction and cancellation of major military exercises, arms transfers, intelligence cooperation and unprecedented American intervention in Israeli domestic affairs, particularly linked to the presence of more than 300,000 Americans in the Jewish state.

“There is clearly another standard that Washington now uses in working with Israel,” a diplomat said. “The intrusion by U.S. agencies, including the FBI and IRS, far exceed that of any other country, including NATO allies.”

Diplomats said the Israel-U.S. tension would continue at least until the presidential elections. They said Israel was expecting what was termed an “October surprise” by Obama that could include an offensive against the regime of President Bashar Assad in Syria or an agreement with Iran to continue its nuclear program in exchange for guarantees of regional security.

“Obama acts as though the most important war he is waging is against Netanyahu, not the one he should be conducting against Iran,” Israeli analyst Eytan Gilboa, deemed a specialist on Washington, said. “His rage over what he sees as Netanyahu’s support for Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney is apparently driving him up the wall. Meanwhile, the Iranians are mocking the ability of these leaders to present a unified message.”