Israel is making the U.S. stance toward Iran look confused and self-defeating.
During Obama’s closed-door meeting with Netanyahu, Israel was conducting an attack on Gaza. When Biden visited, Israel sent a message by approving 1600 new homes for illegal colonists, and this was taken in Washington as an “insult.” But when Washington backed down a few days later by sending Clinton to bow before the right wing Israeli lobbying group AIPAC, Netanyahu was naturally emboldened, and this time sent Washington a stronger message.
The right wing Israeli site DEBKA focused on the cool reception Netanyahu received at the White House, overlooking the absence so far of any real concession on the part of Israel. As the White House meetings ended, the Israeli city government of Jerusalem announced further housing construction (Reuters, as reported on Inform) in occupied East Jerusalem.
Diplomacy between the two allies is useful to track as a leading indicator and makes a difference to the degree that it opens American minds to the dangers of supporting the Israeli right wing or signals pro-Palestinian groups that peaceful progress might suddenly be possible. However, diplomacy is at least as likely to be a cover for reality as an indicator of reality.
So far, the substance (e.g., settlement action and attacks on Gaza) have all suggested a complete victory for the Israeli right wing and a defeat for Americans concerned about the long-term strategic implications of alienating the Muslim world or those concerned about the morality of U.S. foreign policy. A critical but hard to measure indicator of reality would be the nature of the U.S. arms flow to Israel, specifically the question of bunker buster bombs that would—if provided–encourage Israeli hardline attitudes toward Iran and stimulate Iranian security fears by signaling a rising danger of Israeli aggression. A useful review of the issue is provided by Little Alex in Wonderland on March 23, 2010. According to the World Tribune on March 18, 2010, the extremely destabilizing plan to position a shipment of these bombs in Israel was stopped at the last minute by Obama, and the bombs instead went to Diego Garcia—in itself a highly menacing move but one that at least keeps control over the anti-Iran campaign in U.S. hands.
When the world is negotiating with Iran over the trivial point of whether Iranian uranium refined for electricity generation will be exchanged for Western uranium refined for medical purposes inside of Iran or outside, a war threat against Iran of this magnitude seems grossly out of proportion, to the extent that Obama appears to be trying to sabotage Western-Iranian discussions. The reality may well be a last-minute effort to prevent Israel from worsening Mideast tensions that will now be interpreted by all Iranians as a threat and by pro-nuclear Iranians as further justification for getting the bomb as fast as possible. If media reports of a quiet Moscow/Beijing push to convince Iran to compromise are true, one can only imagine what leaders there will think of this clumsy American move. The complications introduced into U.S. ties both with allies and Iran by the Israeli factor constitute a major example of how the U.S. entanglement with Israel undermines U.S. national security.