President Biden with Palestinian President Abbas (White House photo)
Despite the conventional wisdom that Vice-President Biden was insulted by Israel's announced building of 1600 apartment units in Jerusalem--a curiously minor governmental action for the US State Department to "condemn," considering the un-condemned Saudi sponsorship of military and financial support for Taliban killing American soldiers in Afghanistan and Sunni militias killing American soldiers in Iraq--a moment's thought reveals that perhaps this crisis presents an opportunity for a reality check. Who was really insulted here?
In fact, Israelis are suffering from their own attempt at politeness. It was pointed out to me this morning that Biden's visit itself was an insult to the Israelis. For President Obama himself has made it a point to visit the Arab and Muslim capitals of Cairo and Istanbul--and has announced a forthcoming visit to Jakarta. However, since his election, President Obama has declined to visit Israel, despite invitations to do so. Thus, in diplomatic terms, the visit of Vice-President Biden, rather than a head of state, was an insult. Especially coming on the heels of Secretary of Defense Gates' visit to Afghanistan at the same time as the Iranian president. The message: Israel is not as important to the United States as the Muslim world. Rather than protest this demotion to second-tier status symbolized by Biden's visit, the Israelis kept quiet.
Taking silence as a sign of weakness, the US government was clearly emboldened to embarrass and humiliate Israel further--seizing on a pretext, a zoning decision for 1600 apartments, and blowing it up into an international incident. The motivation is probably to destabilize Netanyahu as Prime Minister, in order to bring in a possibly more malleable Tzipi Livni (herself charged with war crimes by Palestinians in London!). This is, as Yogi Berra once said, "deja vu all over again." President Bill Clinton ousted Netanyahu in favor of Ehud Barak when he was President. Since the Obama administration has failed in its policy of "regime change" in Iran, Plan B appears to be a resurrection of President Clinton's failed "peace process."
Step one: Regime change in Jerusalem.
Step two: Heat up the "intifada."
Step three: Israel unable to attack Iran to knock out nuclear missiles aimed at Tel Aviv--by a country that has announced its intention to wipe Israel off the map.
One Israeli alternative to reliance on an increasingly anti-Israel and pro-Islamist US administration (one fighting two wars in Muslim lands!), at this point, would be to seek a better relationship with an increasingly disgruntled and rising China, which also has considerable leverage on Iran...as well as continuing to improve relations with Russia and France--and hope that the next US administration is better. Israel should try to be friends with the US, but any friendship must be based on truly mutual respect.
Otherwise, Israel may find itself in the same position the Shah of Iran did under President Carter, when US support for Islamists helped spawn the Frankenstein international movement that still stalks the world...