On US – Israel relations: a victory for Rouhani

Relations between the Obama administration and Netanyahu are about to get worse. Much worse. 


First is the peace process with the Palestinians. It seems that the Obama administration is seriously angry at the recent decision by the Netanyahu government to build 1700 new homes in the settlements. Kerry’s comments showed this yesterday when he warned that unless we reach a deal, a 3rd intifadah could erupt. This has angered officials inside Netanyahu’s office. Their response was:

Israel, said one official, would not “give in to the intimidation tactics” of the secretary, and would not compromise on its vital security needs.

Then there are differences over Iran.

It is my strong belief that the tensions and serious differences between Obama and Netanyahu over the settlements is influencing their dealings and relations with regards to Iran. Judging by his statements today, Netanyahu feels he is being pushed by Obama on the Palestinian issue, so he is pushing back on the Iran file. And he will continue to push back by getting his allies in the Congress to pass new sanctions against Iran, thus scuppering a possible nuclear deal between the P5+1 and Iran.

The Likud and the Democrats have historically had a tenuous relationship. Bill Clinton and Netanyahu had a very difficult and at times bad relationship. Obama and Netanyahu have had a tough relationship. Their frayed relations could be about to hit its lowest point. 

It seems that Rouhani has just scored his first big foreign policy win. I am sure he is hoping that Israel builds more settlement homes. They seem to be doing wonders for Iran’s plans and wishes to drive a wedge between the US and Israel.  

How much would Obama’s visit to Israel cost?

Obama is scheduled to visit Israel within the next few weeks, and there are already discussions about the “cost” of his visit. When I say cost, I am referring to the political cost.

This weekend's edition of Sof Hashavua
This weekend’s edition of Sof Hashavua

According to the Israeli weekend newspaper Sof Hashavu (pictured right), the cost to Netanyahu will be one year freeze in the construction of settlements.

The reason being that Netanyahu is expecting a major international push for the peace process to restart. In order to reduce the upcoming pressure, the report says that there will be a one year construction freeze.

Israeli papers have also been reporting that the Netanyahu government is worried about Obama coming here before coalition negotiations for the next government are over. It is  very likely that Obama will embrace Yair Lapid‘s new party because of its more centrist values. This could increase Lapid’s leverage in the negotiations, something which Likud Beitenu would not want.

For now Lapid and Naftali Bennet’s party have formed a united front in demanding that Netanyahu agrees to new draft laws for the religious students. Lets see how far they get. I hope they don’t give in.

I will be happy with a one year freeze. It would be a mistake for Abbas to reject it.  The fact that Obama will be going to Ramallah during his trip is a sign that he too is likely to be placed under pressure to negotiate.