The Obama administration's anger, public condemnation and displeasure over Israel's building policies in the settlement blocs and Jerusalem, and the Netanyahu government's open expression of contempt for Obama's understanding of the Middle East, indicate that profound changes in the relationship may be coming.
Recently a senior Obama administration official commented about Netanyahu who seems to frustrate the White House and the State Department the most. “The thing about Bibi is, he’s a chickenshit,” the official said, referring to the Israeli prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, by his nickname.
This comment is representative of the gloves-off manner in which American and Israeli officials now talk about each other, mostly behind closed doors, and is yet another sign that relations between the Obama and Netanyahu governments have moved toward a full-blown crisis. The relationship between these two administrations seem to be at their worst ever, and it stands to get significantly worse after the November midterm elections. Analysts are conjecturing that by next year, the Obama administration may actually withdraw diplomatic cover for Israel at the United Nations.
But even before that, both sides are expecting a showdown over Iran, should a conciliatory agreement be reached about the future of Iran's nuclear program by the US administration.
Netanyahu has been reported to have told several people that he has “written off” the Obama administration, and plans to speak directly to Congress and to the American people. For its part, Obama administration officials have expressed, in the words of one official, a “red-hot anger” at Netanyahu for pursuing settlement policies on the West Bank, and building policies in Jerusalem, that they believe have fatally undermined Secretary of State John Kerry’s peace process.
What does this deterioration in relations hold in store for Israel? It may be unsurprising come post the November mid-term elections to see the Obama administration take the gloves off and even publicly laying down the terms for an agreement between Israel and the Palestinians including delineating the two-state solutions borders. This is something that will not go down lightly with the Israeli government. There is an increasing likelihood that the US administration could even withhold defense of Israel against hostile resolutions.
Over the years, Obama administration officials have described Netanyahu as recalcitrant, myopic, reactionary, obtuse, blustering and pompous but no-one has previously described Netanyahu as a “chickenshit.