Israel-U. S. ties drifting apart, diplomat says
Adrian Blomfield, The Daily Telegraph · Monday, Jun. 28, 2010
A senior Israeli diplomat has warned that the Jewish state is drifting away from the United States after a "tectonic rift."
The sobering assessment comes a week before Benjamin Netanyahu, the Israeli Prime Minister, meets U.S. President Barack Obama at the White House.
There had been hope that the two could lay to rest a dispute that erupted in March, but the new comments have raised fears of long-term damage. Michael Oren, Israel's ambassador to Washington, told colleagues in Jerusalem that they were facing a potentially irrevocable estrangement.
Sources said Mr. Oren told the meeting: "There is no crisis in Israel-U. S. relations because in a crisis there are ups and downs. [Instead] relations are in a state of tectonic rift in which continents are drifting apart."
Mr. Oren's pessimism stands in contrast to public declarations in both Jerusalem and Washington that differences between the two states are simply "disagreements" between allies.
The ambassador told the Jerusalem Post newspaper last week that U.S.-Israel ties were stronger than many observers believed.
Mr. Netanyahu's July 6 visit to the White House is likely to be cloaked in civility, unlike his previous encounter with Mr. Obama in March, when he was given a stern dressing-down and denied permission to hold a joint press conference.
The Israeli Prime Minister could even be invited to Camp David, the presidential retreat.
But the show of unity is being seen as a sop to members of Mr. Obama's party, who fear angering Jewish American voters before November's midterm elections, than as a sign of rapprochement.
Israeli officials expect a sterner private reception for their Prime Minister, who is yet to be forgiven for the perceived humiliation of Joe Biden, the
U.S. vice-president, during a visit to Israel in March.
Mr. Oren claims that attempts to gain leverage over Mr. Obama through some of his "pro-Israel" aides had failed. Instead, Mr. Obama is understood to hold Mr. Netanyahu at least partly responsible for the lack of progress in talks between Israel and Palestine.
Mr. Oren later denied the comments attributed to him during the briefing. It is the second time pessimistic comments made by the ambassador during private briefings have been made public in the past four months.
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