Judging by the title, sparks were going to fly. A much-anticipated session at the second annual Israeli Presidential Conference, today was called “Jerusalem, Washington, US Jewry — Is the Honeymoon Over?”
The honeymoon is over, implied Elliott Abrams, former policy advisor to President George W. Bush, saying that he “had a wonderful honeymoon with Sallai,” referring to fellow panelist Sallai Meridor, former Israeli ambassador to America.
But while panelists agreed that relations are being put to the test and should become more intimate, in the main they were circumspect, and at points upbeat. Meridor, who was ambassador when Obama took office, said that whatever the clashes between Obama and Netanyahu, both leaders’ desire to make history will keep them on track. They both “see things in a very strategic historic manner,” he said.
I think that Netanyahu looks at his term as a historic term more than a personal term and I think that President Obama looks at his presidency as an historic phenomenon.
I think that both individuals from my impression, beyond ideology, and both of them have a strong ideological basis, are strategic and are looking make major changes and if they are able and I hope they are to find the middle ground … the right thing for the world, for America, for Israel.
I think this would take precedence for them over political considerations.
Stanley Greenberg, former advisor to President Bill Clinton, cited another reason why ties are not in danger. He pointed to the “continuity and depth of support” between the two allies, saying the “bottom line” is that the US-Israel alliance “is grounded in real things, values, deep support on both sides.”
But when, in a later session, participants heard from one of the most powerful figures in the Israeli government, Defense Minister Ehud Barak, there was indication that a major fault line is already opening up.
The former head of Israel’s Mossad, Efraim Halevy, has some harsh words about American foreign policy in the cover story of the June issue of The Atlantic. The story, by journalist David Samuels, is a fascinating, in-depth exploration of Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice’s ambitious effort to straighten up the mess that is the Middle East.
Halevy gives the writer a withering take on the administration’s democratization program:
“I used to deal with Condi when I was head of Mossad and she was national-security adviser, and I had a great respect for her, and admiration,” Halevy says. “I still do. But I think that in her role of secretary of state, things are not going too well. The main problem is that Condi Rice was never an expert on the Middle East. That’s not her area of expertise. And therefore, she has to rely on others. And the others in this case is a lawyer who is an ideologue” — meaning Elliott Abrams — “who believes that you can promote a certain ideology anywhere and everywhere around the world if you think it’s the right ideology. And you really don’t have to know very much about the basic facts in the region that you’re dealing with, because you have to tailor the region to your ideology.”