Just when it seemed that things could not go worse for U.S.-Israel relations Defense Minister Moshe (Bogie) Ya’alon comes to visit the U.S. and has all the doors slammed in his face except for that of Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel. While one might ask why does it matter if the Defense Minister does or does not meet the U.S. Secretary of State or at least meet the Vice-President at the White House, it becomes significant because virtually all Administrations have extended these courtesy meetings to senior Israeli Ministers for years. Now because Ya’alon repeatedly angered the Obama Administration in general and Secretary Kerry in particular since this summer and has yet to properly apologize, he joins Prime Minister Netanyahu in the Obama dog house.
At the end of the day, however, Israel’s problems with Washington really begin at the top and have been only reinforced and perpetuated by politics which Netanyahu is maneuvering with and among his colleagues and rivals within his right wing coalition. (Wait until the State Department reacts tomorrow to reports in Israel that Netanyahu will be acquiescing to additional settlement related construction on the West Bank in order to placate Naftali Bennett’s threat to “disrupt the coalition” if Bibi does not move ahead with new settlements or settlement related activity!)
This is occurring at the worst possible time for Obama, as the President and the Democrats face a November election in which all polls to date suggest that the Democrats will lose control of the Senate. Coupled with a House already in the hands of the GOP, what the President does not need is to have a presumed close friend of the U.S. heavily rooting for his team to lose.
Bibi is not acting this way only because some center-left Ministers are criticizing the Prime Minister. One might in fact suggest that people like Tzipi Livni have their own political agendas just like Bibi, but much of this has been going on for too long. The U.S.-Israel relationship is undergoing totally unnecessary hostility and destabilizing stress. Obama has the right to expect proper courtesy from an ally’s ministers, even when they disagree with America’s President, and his Secretary of State; regardless of the internal bickering and points he may seek to score. He also should expect that foreign leaders not appear to be mingling in American elections.