The Independent’s Patrick Cockburn explains that the power of Israel is declining but Washington is seemingly powerless to control its wild friend:
Israel itself is getting politically and militarily weaker. The high point of Israel’s influence in the Middle East was after the peace agreement with Egypt in 1979 which freed it to invade Lebanon in 1982. But intervention in Lebanon turned into a prolonged guerrilla war ending with Israel’s final withdrawal in 2000. Military operations in Lebanon and Gaza in the following 10 years have uniformly failed to achieve their objectives. Meanwhile the head of Mossad, Meir Dagan, said that America’s need for Israel is less since the end of the Cold War.
It may be in the interests of the US to restrain Israel but this is almost certainty not going to happen. The reason why is shown by the strange story of the attempt by General David Petraeus, now commander in Afghanistan, previously head of Central Command and America’s most prestigious general, to put on the record the fact that US support for Israeli actions in the Middle East was endangering the safety of US troops. He reiterated this in written testimony before Congress in March.
But no sooner had General Petraeus done so than he was swiftly rowing back. The explanation for General Petraeus’s swift turnaround suggests that he wants to keep open the option of running for the presidency as Republican candidate in 2012 and does not intend to alienate Jewish voters or militant neocons.
The episode illustrates the domestic constraints on any American political or military leader constraining or even criticising Israel. It is possible that President Obama privately took a tough line with Mr Netanyahu yesterday, but he is unlikely to take effective measures to pressure Israel for fear of increasing expected Democratic Party losses in the mid-term elections. No crisis in US-Israeli relations is likely, though this is the one thing that might make Israeli voters reject Mr Netanyahu.