One version is all sunshine and rainbows the other, a deepening extremism in both countries. And these two vastly different versions are struggling to co-exist
The split-screen images of Israeli and US officials smiling at the opening of the American embassy in Jerusalem, while Israel killed Gazans just miles away, reflected a striking indifference by leaders in the United States and Israel to the consequences of the occupation of Palestinian territories. And, despite the paeans that the Israeli prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, and the White House senior adviser, Jared Kushner, paid to the strength of the ties between the two countries, those images highlighted a rot eating away at the US-Israel relationship.
Even before the violence in Gaza and the embassy opening, on my trip to Israel last week, the duality of the US-Israel relationship was stark.
As I stood in the Golan Heights on the border with Syria, it was easy to see the value of the partnership. Just one day earlier, the Iron Dome missile defense system (developed jointly by the US and Israel) had protected Israel from rockets fired from Iranian bases in Syria.
Just a few days before, as I stood in an Israeli settlement in the Palestinian city of Hebron, it was difficult to understand how the United States can provide support for the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) that protect Israelis committing illegal acts in taking Palestinian land in some cases acts that are condemned even by Israeli courts.
These two experiences were emblematic of two vastly different versions of the US-Israel relationship trying and increasingly struggling to coexist.
One version of the US-Israel relationship is all sunshine and rainbows: deep political and military bonds between governments, extensive trade, special ties between peoples, and Americas backing for the historical justice of safeguarding a democratic homeland for the Jewish people.
The other version of the relationship is one of deepening polarization in both countries: the rightwing Israeli government cozies up to US Republicans and pursues extreme policies, while American views of Israel are increasingly divided along partisan lines.
Israel wants to be judged on its thriving democracy and economy, for which it deserves real credit. But one cannot ignore Israels military occupation of the West Bank and blockade of Gaza where a combined almost 5 million Palestinians live. Government-supported settlements in the West Bank are expanding, slowly taking over Palestinian land in what appears to be a creeping annexation.
In America, views of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict are more partisan than theyve been since 1978, according to one study, which revealed that 79% of Republicans say their sympathies lie more with Israel than with the Palestinians, while only 27% of Democrats are more sympathetic to Israel. Another study revealed that, while a large majority of Democrats see Israel as a strategic asset, 55% of Democrats also see Israel as a strategic burden, and 60% of Democrats believe the United States should impose sanctions or take serious action in response to Israeli settlements.
The political fight in the United States over the Iran nuclear deal illustrates the partisan divide. In 2015 there was a Democratic uproar when the Republicans invited the Israeli prime minister to speak to Congress in opposition to the Iran nuclear deal being pushed by a Democratic president. This growing link between Israeli and American rightwing parties was reinforced by Netanyahus recent presentation supposedly showing Irans previous nuclear ambitions, which was just days later referenced by Donald Trump as justification for violating the deal.
The same goes for the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Trump is backing Netanyahus government with hardly a critical word of Israeli activity towards the Palestinians. The embassy move is a case in point it gains nothing for the United States, makes it impossible for the Palestinians to view this administration as a neutral mediator for peace talks, and stoked violence.
Israel has genuine security concerns, and the second intifada left deep scars on the Israeli psyche. For Israelis who remember wondering each day if their children were going to be killed by a suicide bomber on the way to school, the occupation allows Israelis to keep the Palestinians out of sight and out of mind. This is no small part of the reason why rightwing parties promising security have run Israel for almost two decades now.
Read more: http://www.theguardian.com/us