Even if this story is accurate, that US/Israeli relations are struggling, other reports indicate Washington is very happy to continue carrying the water for Tel Aviv, even if it means not releasing Gilad Shalit because it would strengthen Hamas.
Israel’s ambassador to Washington, Michael Oren, denied painting a dark picture of U.S.-Israeli relations during a briefing at the Foreign Ministry in Jerusalem last week.
Israeli diplomats say Oren described the current situation as a “tectonic rift” in which Israel and the United States are like continents drifting apart.
Oren’s comments come in the run-up to the July 6 meeting between Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and U.S. President Barack Obama at the White House.
Oren visited Israel over the past week, briefing Israelis at the ministry’s North America and research divisions. Five Israeli diplomats, some of whom took part in the briefing or were informed about the details, said Oren described relations between the two countries in bleak terms.
According to the Israeli diplomats, Oren said relations between the two countries are not in a crisis because a crisis is something that passes. Oren opted to use terms from geology: “Relations are in the state of a tectonic rift in which continents are drifting apart.”
Oren noted that contrary to Obama’s predecessors – George W. Bush and Bill Clinton – the current president is not motivated by historical-ideological sentiments toward Israel but by cold interests and considerations. He added that his access as Israel’s ambassador to senior administration officials and close advisers of the president is good. But Obama has very tight control over his immediate environment, and it is hard to influence him.
“This is a one-man show,” Oren is quoted as saying.
Ali Abunimah blogs that a diplomatic source has told him that George Mitchell directed the Israelis not to make a deal for Gilad Shalit’s freedom, as it would only strengthen Hamas. In addition, this report from Yediot Achronot (Hebrew) notes that Shalit’s freedom would come at the expense of freeing Marwan Barghouti on the Palestinian side. The latter would become the defacto popular leader of Fatah and thus displace the U.S. crony Abbas, which this administration wishes to avoid.
And Ali Abunimah on some realities in the Middle East that our kind and friendly corporate press are unlikely to report:
I had some interesting conversations with what I can refer to as diplomatic sources familiar with these matters and thought the following points worth sharing:
- Despite all the talk of ending/easing the blockade of Gaza, there is no way in the foreseeable future of a shift in Quartet policy toward Hamas. Rather, the EU and other peace process stakeholders are waiting for US envoy George Mitchell to pull a white rabbit out of his hat (i.e by restarting “peace talks” leading to a two-state solution). At the same time, no one really believes that is going to happen. So essentially, nothing serious is happening on the diplomatic front.
- World Bank figures due to be published in coming weeks are likely to show that economic growth in the Gaza Strip in the first quarter of 2010 has exceeded that in the West Bank. While virtually all economic growth in the West Bank is a result of foreign aid, much of the growth in Gaza is attributable to a “parallel economy” that has emerged thanks to the tunnels. This has even created a small new class of nouveaux riches in Gaza.
- Many Palestinian Authority employees in the Gaza Strip are having their salaries paid by the EU in order NOT to go to work. If they go to work (and therefore legitimize the Hamas government) their salaries are cut off.
- Palestinians have already succeeded in breaching the US-financed underground steel wall being built along the Gaza-Egypt border.
- Press reports that US envoy George Mitchell once again put severe pressure on Egypt and other parties not to allow a Hamas-Fatah reconciliation deal to proceed are accurate. The logic is that the US wants to avoid any legitimization of Hamas and focus on the “proximity talks” leading to “direct talks” (leading to nowhere?).
- Press reports from last December that Mitchell vetoed a prisoner swap deal between the Netanyahu government and Hamas mediated by the Germans are accurate. (So if Israelis want to whine about the fact that Gilad Shalit is still a prisoner of war in Gaza they can direct their ire at their “best friend” the United States which nixed the German-brokered deal). Same warped logic – to avoid giving Hamas a victory.
- Salam Fayyad’s “state building” initiative is a hollow shell. All he is is a pass through for foreign funds and a ceremonial ribbon-cutter and has not developed any independent or credible institutions and none are in the offing.
Some of this information was already known or obvious, but useful to have it further confirmed by people with direct knowledge.