For many American Israelis, binational life is the best of two worlds. They travel with U.S. passports. Live in sunny Israel. Vote in both countries! And they say they can love America and Israel at the same time. But lately, the relationship resides under a new strain.
Every U.S. politician who speaks in Israel delivers sweet words about shared values and unprecedented alliance, not to mention $3 billion in annual U.S. aid between the best-friend nations. It’s a bond so close that many in both nations envision Israel as “the 51st state.”
But today, the talk here around American Israeli dinner tables is all about the open feud between President Obama and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, about who disrespected whom, in a sensational public spat over the pending deal to curtail Iran’s nuclear ambitions and whether Netanyahu meant it when he said there would never be a Palestinian stateunder his watch.
As marriage counselors say, in many rocky relationships, the problems on the surface may run much deeper. The U.S.-Israel relationship is now increasingly viewed here by ordinary citizens along Washington-style partisan lines.
Few feel this more intensely than these dual citizens, who might choose between Fox and CNN on their satellite TV packages.
On the right, many American Israelis blame Obama. They say he doesn’t understand Israel’s deep anxieties, or worse, doesn’t really care.
“He has written off Israel,” a popular Israeli columnist wrote. Some disparage the U.S. president, placing emphasis on his middle name, Hussein. They recycle old tropes that he is a stealth Muslim or is against Jews.
On the left, American Israelis say Netanyahu is the problem. He’s a bully, an embarrassment, he’s turning the whole world against us; he insults America, Israel’s only true friend, they say. They point out, with exasperation, that most American Jews are Democrats who voted for Obama.
Pundits call Netanyahu the de facto president of the Israel chapter of Republicans Abroad. His critics call him a bot for billionaire Las Vegas casino owner, Jewish philanthropist and super-GOP donor Sheldon Adelson. Adelson owns the largest circulation newspaper in Israel, often a house organ for Netanyahu and his Likud party.
Yet even among committed Democrats in the American Israeli community, there is a thrum that the Obama White House may not get it — that either the president has failed to communicate why the Iran deal is good for Israel or has been outfoxed by Netanyahu, who was reelected last month for a historic fourth term.
SOURCE: Ruth Eglash and William Booth
The Washington Post