The End of the Special Relationship?

TEL AVIV – Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s recent visit to Washington highlighted fundamental disagreements between Israel’s current government and President Barack Obama’s administration. Netanyahu persists in questioning Obama’s infatuation with the two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and he refuses to see the link that Obama believes exists between an Israeli-Palestinian peace and his capacity to curtail Iran’s nuclear ambitions.

Nor is Netanyahu especially happy with Obama’s reluctance to set a firm deadline for talks with Iran. Israelis believe that Iran is galloping into the nuclear club, and will shrewdly use the prospect of talks with the US to pre-empt tougher sanctions or a military strike.

Crises and profound disagreements are not new in the relations between these two unequal allies. But, however fundamental the current differences might be, it is the underlying suspicion that Obama is poised to shift America away from its unique relationship with the Jewish state that most worries Israelis.

A convergence of interests and a profoundly emotional attitude to Israel’s story and to the Jewish narrative since the Holocaust have been the motive forces behind what is perhaps one of the most intriguing alliances in international relations. In fact, there is no single, exclusive explanation for America’s persistent vindication of its commitment to Israel, and for the uniquely vigorous resonance that Israel’s cause has had in the United States.