Former US Ambassador to Israel Martin Indyk on Wednesday told Israel's Army Radio that the time has come for the Jewish state to fall in line with American foreign policy, or risk ruining its relationship with Washington.
"The shift in America's Middle East interests means that [Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin] Netanyahu must make a choice: Take on the president of the United States, or take on his right wing," said Indyk, who today is Vice President for Foreign Policy at the Brookings Institution in Washington and remains a top advisor to US President Barack Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
Indyk was referring to Netanyahu's decision on Wednesday to reject Obama's demand that he freeze all Jewish construction in parts of Jerusalem claimed by the Palestinians.
Obama presumably made the demand when the two leaders met behind closed doors at the White House last month. Netanyahu did agree to a number of other "confidence-building" gestures toward the Palestinians, but insisted that no Israeli leader could ever deny Jews the right to build in their own capital.
Indyk said that kind of attitude is going to do permanent damage to the traditionally-strong Israel-US relationship. The time has come, insisted Indyk, for Israel to choose between its relations with the West and its millennia-old dreams of resettling all of its God-given lands.
Indyk noted that Washington views Israeli settlements as detrimental to US national interests in the Middle East, and Israel's insistence on maintaining those settlements, including Jewish neighborhoods in eastern Jerusalem, has resulted in a "serious crisis."
He went on to suggest that Israel is obligated to fall in line with American interests since Israel is the beneficiary of so much US goodwill.
"If Israel is a superpower and does not need $3 billion in military assistance and the protection of the US, and the efforts of the US to isolate and pressure Iran, than go ahead and do what you like. If you need the US then you need to take American interests into account," said Indyk.
In response, Israeli Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon, a former ambassador to the US, reminded Indyk that Israel, too, has national interests.
"We must ensure Israel's future as a Jewish state," Ayalon told a gathering of the Israel Bonds delegation in Jerusalem. "We desire peace, but not at the costs of Israel's national interests."
Ayalon said that the unprecedented US pressure being applied on Israel is ultimately going to backfire, and is actually putting true peace further out of reach.
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