Photo: Miriam Alster/Flash90

There seems to be a very fast decline in US-Israel relations, after the Americans abstain on a UN Security Council resolution that Israel expected them to veto. Are Israel and America, like Ross and Rachel, on a break?

This is a segment from The “(Feels Like) Sumpin’ Gonna Give” Edition.


Now it is time for our first discussion.

So Allison, President Joe Biden famously once said to Benjamin Netanyahu, “I don’t agree with the word you say, but I love you, man.”

Is he now saying pretty much the same thing, save for the “but I love you, man” part?

Looks like it.

The rift between Israel and the United States that has been expanding for weeks, the wars of words, has grown into a real chasm this week.

It is hard to say just exactly when it started, but it grew to the point where it was impossible to ignore on Monday, when for the first time, representatives of the United States abstained in a vote on UN Resolution 2728, declaring that the Security Council, quote, “demands an immediate ceasefire for the month of Ramadan, respected by all parties, leading to a lasting, sustainable ceasefire, and also demands that the immediate and unconditional release of all hostages, as well as ensuring humanitarian access to address their medical and other humanitarian needs.”

So many of the diplomats on hand for the vote broke into applause because for months, the United States has been vetoing very similar bills.

The abstention was the Biden administration’s way of saying to Benjamin Netanyahu and his government, “Hey, have we got your attention now?”

Though there’s every reason to believe that the American administration sees merit in the idea that Israel ought to stop with the bombs and shells and bullets and let Gazans tend to their wounded and dead and hungry and traumatized.

After America’s abstention in the Security Council, Prime Minister Netanyahu said that the vote was, quote, “a retreat from the consistent American position since the beginning of the war that harms the war effort, as well as the effort to liberate the hostages.”

He also ordered a high level Israeli delegation that was set to fly to America for high level talks about the IDF’s plans to route Hamas out of Rafa to unpack their bags.

Last week U.S.

President Biden had asked Netanyahu to take part in these meetings and the Israeli prime minister had agreed.

A State Department spokesman, Matthew Miller, called Prime Minister Netanyahu’s putting the kibosh on the diplomatic mission a bit surprising and unfortunate.

That’s an understatement, right?

A report by Axios political analyst, Barack Ravid, said that the White House sees in Israel’s blustery response to the American abstention, quote, “an artificial crisis manufactured by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for domestic political reasons.”

Several in the know American officials told Ravid that the White House had tipped off the prime minister ahead of the UN vote, stressing that the Americans did not see their abstention as any kind of policy change because that resolution is non-binding.

One of the officials wondered aloud to Ravid, “If Prime Minister Netanyahu felt so strongly, why didn’t he just call President Biden?”

And what’s more, they said, all of that is self-defeating.

The prime minister could have chosen a different course to align with the U.S. on the meaning of this resolution.

He chose not to apparently for political purposes.

These political purposes, according to the American officials who talked to Ravid, were twofold.

They gave Prime Minister Netanyahu a way to get out of sending a delegation to hear American ideas about what Israel ought to do to stymie Hamas without launching a full blown attack on Rafa.

They told Ravid of Netanyahu that, quote, “he was afraid that we might offer something reasonable.”

Also, they said the prime minister had decided that, quote, “standing up to the Americans would return some of the popularity with Israeli voters that he had lost since October 7th.”

In response to all this, representatives of Israel’s government said that the government’s rage at the American abstention should surprise no one because the resolution makes it that much harder for Israel to disable Hamas, a goal that everyone in the free world ought to embrace.

Israel’s ambassador to the UN, Gilad Erdan, called the resolution, quote, “shameful.”

In response to this kind of thing, Assistant Secretary of State Bill Russo wrote in a leaked memo that, quote, “the Israelis seemed oblivious to the fact that they are facing major, possibly generational damage to the reputation, not just in the region, but elsewhere in the world,” which Times of Israel political analyst, Khaviv Retegur called “ridiculous,” tweeting that, quote, “Israelis believe they face annihilationist enemies on multiple fronts and a world primed to critique their actions out of all proportion to other conflicts.

And so the only path actually available to them is to buck that world opinion, to absorb that generational damage to the reputation and to systematically remove those enemies because the alternative is never ending October 7th on nearly every single one of their borders,” which is probably something like what Prime Minister Netanyahu would offer if you asked him why he responded to the American abstention in the Security Council with such force and rage.


Gilad, what do we make out of the seemingly very quick, seemingly very steep recent decline in American-Israeli relations?

What’s behind the rollercoaster ride?

What does it mean?

And in the scheme of things, does it matter?

Yeah, that’s a good question.

I’m not, you know, it’s really hard to tell whether it’s a long lasting shift or just a bump on the road because there have been disagreements between Netanyahu and especially Democratic administrations all along, but it never escalated to this extent.

And of course it was amplified and intensified by October 7th and its aftermath.

Honestly, I don’t think it’s a game changer yet.

I mean, there is, it’s sort of like the iceberg effect that you only see like the tip of the iceberg only to realize that the iceberg is huge at a much later stage.

I don’t know how big it is.

I think it’s much bigger than we have seen and may still see in the future.

But I really don’t think that there will be a fundamental rift between Israel and America any time soon.

That’s my opinion.

It’s true that if you think of this as a kind of binary thing, rift or not rift, it’s closer to the, still to the not rift side in that the United States is, even as we speak, sending arms that Israel needs and they’re still coming and it hasn’t stopped that.

And there’s an aid package that is underway and the money is being transferred.

So all of that is true.

And there’s no reason to think that Joe Biden is anything less than a very ardent supporter of Israel, which I think he’s made clear through all of this.

But this does still terrify me, not that America abstained in this, in this particular resolution, but that there, it seems to be a moment where maybe it really is in both Prime Minister Netanyahu’s narrow political interest to seem as though he’s saying, screw you to the Americans, making him seem kind of strong, and also in what he takes to be the country’s national interest to be saying, you know, hold me back, hold me back, or more so saying, basically, you can’t hold me back to the entire world.

And that we are not going to stop this until we have rolled into Rafi’ach with all the army and all that that means.

And it’s I think that that Khabib Retegor had it right that Netanyahu believes, and I think a lot of a lot of Israelis believe, though certainly not all of them and maybe not most of them, that it is it is so important to pursue Hamas to the last person in the last tunnel that we will do this, whatever the world says, including the United States.

And here I agree with the United States diplomats who are saying, you don’t quite seem to realize what a disaster that will be for you in the long run if you push us all, including us, the United States, that far.

So I sort of feel like we’re rumbling down this road that leads to a cliff that we’re just going to fall off.

And the cliff is going to be that America at some point is going to say, OK, we’re not going to ship any more of the arms and we’re not going to give you the money.

And then I don’t know quite what happens.

So the issues are the issues.

And I don’t disagree with what either of you said, but I think we also have to look at the political situation and look at it through a lens of politics.

Joe Biden has and is walking a tightrope between his genuine care and concern for Israel and the way he’s stood by Israel.

And as you say, supplied the weapons and basically given moral backing to Israel’s right to defend itself and to try to protect its people from what happened on October 7th and return people to their homes on the borders.

And the increasing sentiment in the United States, which we’ll talk about in Patreon, against what’s happening in Gaza and the way that this war is being waged and the death toll.

And he’s facing this 2024 election, which is coming up faster than we can we can imagine.

So he has to both he can’t lose on both sides.

He can’t all of a sudden turn strongly against Israeli policy and condition supplying arms on Israel’s behavior and taking a really hard line.

But he’s doing what he can to signal.

And this U.N. extension is a is a signal.

And the sanctions against violent settlers in the United States was a signal.

So he is without sort of like breaking the whole thing.

He has to do something in order to balance and not be perceived as in Netanyahu’s pocket or on the Israeli side.

So as not to endanger losing a certain amount of the vote in in 2024.

And on the other side, if he flips too far the other way against Israel, remember, this is a general election and there are people who are otherwise Republican leaning who are anti-Trump.

He needs to keep them as well.

And they are, by and large, strongly supportive of Israel.

So, you know, I see actions like this, the abstention and the sanctions against the settler as his way of walking that tightrope.

And then on the flip side, you’ve got Netanyahu.

I’m talking for a long time, but you’ve got Netanyahu, who is, again, you know, blustering and saying these things.

And I’m standing up to the United States.

On the other hand, you don’t see him like, you know, forging ahead into Rafah over Ramadan, which is basically what the United States wants.

So he is also walking a tightrope of not, you know, breaking all the all the elements of the relationship with the United States on one hand and on the other hand, holding together his coalition and showing his coalition partners that he’s standing up to American pressure and not doing everything they’re telling him to.

And this morning biking over, I heard the news report that Netanyahu had decided after all to send the delegation that Biden wanted, which is another sign of what you were just talking about.

I think that apart from the short term political interests of both Netanyahu and Biden, I think that the bigger picture is really about what American interests in the Middle East and globally are.

And, you know, for the better part of the last 50 years, 60 years or even more, the alliance with Israel was an expression of these American interests in the Middle East, you know, strong, democratic, you know, this the forefront of the of the West and the Middle East, all these things were really what American foreign policy was all about.

And the question is whether now with Netanyahu, and it started even before October the 7th, you remember the call to order that Biden gave him over the judicial reform, whether Israel is in the process of stopping, of not being an expression of American foreign policy in the Middle East anymore.

And to what extent that would unfold into, you know, really a rift in that sense, the strategic sense.

However, interestingly enough, the occupation of the Palestinian territories was not threatening American interests in the Middle East.

This is also something that we should bear in mind that the cold shoulder started only with the judicial reform and intensified now over the Gaza operation.

But for some reason that I still don’t fully understand, there were the consecutive American administrations were really comfortable with just paying lip service to Palestinian rights.

And I’m sure we’ll discuss that.

Bigger problems, Russia, China, so many bigger problems.

And it might not be that way going forward.

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