Israel appears defiant, sensing Obama weakness
Reporting from Washington and Jerusalem — The Democrats' midterm election losses appear to have spurred a shift in a key alliance, with Israel stepping up its resistance to the Obama administration's Mideast peace initiative and efforts to halt Iran's nuclear ambitions.
President Obama has pressed Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for months to avoid any move that would set back the peace effort Washington launched Sept. 1. The talks faltered almost immediately over Israel's refusal to extend a partial freeze on building in disputed territories.
And on Tuesday, Netanyahu issued a defiant statement of support for a new Jewish construction project in disputed East Jerusalem, rebuffing complaints by Obama.
Two days earlier, Netanyahu had delivered a tough speech at a Jewish convention in New Orleans, arguing that Iran needs to be threatened more strongly with military action. His comments suggest growing dissatisfaction with the Obama administration's plan to apply economic sanctions to persuade Iran to accept limits on its nuclear program.
"If the international community, led by the United States, hopes to stop Iran's nuclear program without resorting to military action, it will have to convince Iran that it is prepared to take action," he said.
The statement, first reported by Politico, suggested that Netanyahu may use the Republican-controlled House of Representatives as a counterweight to the White House, as he did during the Clinton administration
It was also designed to show that "he understands the new congressional math, and knows that the next two years are going to be much tougher for Obama," Miller said.
Yet there were signs even before the midterm elections that Netanyahu had become emboldened by the perception that Obama's political strength was ebbing.
Not only has Netanyahu been unwilling to hold back construction in the occupied West Bank or East Jerusalem, he has pushed the Palestinians to recognize Israel as a Jewish state, a move that Palestinians fear would preempt the right of return for those who fled during the 1948 war.
Israeli leaders typically want harmony with the United States, but Netanyahu appears to have calculated that he can afford intermittent clashes with Washington, and may even benefit from them.
This disagreement has come at a time when there are wide expectations that Obama will review Middle East policy and decide whether he should back away to focus on the U.S. economy. Obama's view of the Netanyahu government will affect that calculation.
The situation between the U.S. and Israel is of great significance in the region. The U.S. will push the peace talks, and ensuing border manipulation of Israel along with the formation of a "Palestinian State" more so than any other nation or block, including the EU.
However, we also know from Bible prophecy that the U.S. will fade as the new Roman Empire grows in strength and power.
Is it time for the EU to gain more control over the "peace process" as U.S.-Israeli relationships deteriorate?
The time seems ripe; and as usual, this situation is worth watching closely.