Al-Guardian is reporting that Michael Oren, Israeli ambassador to the US briefed Israeli diplomats in Jerusalem on the sharp deterioration in the relationship between the two countries as Israeli PM Benyamin Netanyahu makes preparations for a White House visit early next month.
According to what Oren reportedly said, the situation has moved past a crisis that eventually passes. "There is no crisis in Israel-US relations because in a crisis there are ups and downs," he told the diplomats in Jerusalem. "Relations are in the state of a tectonic rift in which continents are drifting apart."
So how accurate do I think this is? Hard to say, especially when you try to follow Michael Oren. Just three weeks ago, Oren told Fox News that Israel's relationship with the US was 'very close and very cooperative and very open, today he's talking about a tectonic rift?
Here's what I think the reality is.
Unlike other US presidents, Barack Obama has made no secret about the fact from day one after he was elected he basically considered Israel a distasteful colonial outpost and favored appeasing the Muslim world by deconstructing the alliance between the two countries. I'm sure that's still his objective, but due to Israel's support in Congress and the fact that appeasing the Muslim world didn't go quite as planned, he's realized that Israel is still a strategic asset in that part of the world. And closer to home, he's also realized that his political support and that of this party among American Jews is not what it was, and with midterms coming on he feels the necessity of at least doing a little fence mending - for now.
That explains why the head of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Mullen just completed a trip to Israel to confer with them on security matters, and why the anti-Israel rhetoric out of the White House has ramped down a bit, even if very little else has really changed.
Added to the mix is President Obama's ill-concerned dislike of Benyamin Netanyahu and Israel's center/right government - which is why Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barack from Israel's Left wing Labour Party is President Obama's preferred interlocutor between the White House and the Israeli government, even though his party has only twelve seats in the Knesset and no one elected Ehud Barack to anything.
When Netanyahu comes to DC, there may be smiles and a few photo-ops, unlike last time. But Barack Obama undoubtedly plans to ignore any attempts to realistically discuss Iran and will concentrate on trying to wring further Israeli concessions on Gaza and on building in Judea, Samaria and Jerusalem out of Netanyahu.
How that's going to go is anyone's guess.
UPDATE: Oren has denied making the above statement claiming he said 'shift' instead of rift and that his description of the US/Israel relationship was much more benign than was reported by whatever anonymous sources leaked his briefing.
The mind boggles.