Maybe, just maybe, there is a possibility for the U.S.-Israel relationship to start being repaired. That is the measure of two recent events which are totally unconnected but relevant. These are small steps which may be signs that both sides recognize that the foolishness of their behavior—not the substance of their disagreements—must come to an end.
The leak of Friday and the announcement today that Jonathan Pollard will be released from prison on November 20 is an important move by the Obama Administration. This is a case that has been lingering since he pled guilty to the charges of spying against the United States for Israel in 1987. Having been imprisoned by the Reagan Administration for handing over secret information to the Israelis and Pollard has lingered there through the balance of the Reagan Administration, four and eight years of Bushes, eight years of Clinton, and now almost seven years of Obama. His release may in fact –because of the timing at least–be an Obama gesture to Israel in light of the Iran stand-off; but nevertheless, it needs to be accepted in good faith and, hopefully, with appreciation by the Israelis and American Jews.
Similarly, Israeli Ambassador Ron Dermer remarks this morning on television—no doubt at the full instigation and approval of Bibi–attacking Governor Mike Huckabee’s outrageous remarks about the Obama Administration was also very significant. Dermer, who has hardly ingratiated himself in Washington, was direct and blunt in denigrating the insulting remarks that Huckabee had made about the President, when he had suggested that Obama’s Iran deal was indicative that the President was leading Israel again into the ovens.
Huckabee is not a serious possible presidential nominee for the Republican Party, but he does have a national following especially among Evangelical Christians many of whom are strong supporters of Israel. Dermer’s defense of the President and the U.S.-Israel relationship was the first formal and public statement by the Israeli Government—of any sort—since the Iran agreement was signed in Vienna.
It will not get Kerry to change his plans and include Israel on his forthcoming stops in the region in Cairo and Doha on his way out to Asia. Kerry obviously believes that he has received enough lecturing from Netanyahu in public that he does not need to show up in Jerusalem and again have the American Secretary of State battered about by the Israeli Prime Minister in a totally unproductive exchange. (Any substantive discussions about Iran have and will continue to occur between the two countries’ security teams, but not with Kerry getting himself publicly tongue lashed.)
There are certain to be many more ugly words between the U.S. and Israel before all the votes are taken in Congress on the Iran deal. These small events over the past several days, however, suggest that slowly some saner are beginning to emerge to try to get the bi-lateral relationship beyond the ugly rhetoric; regardless of the two countries disagreements over the deal.