US President Barack Obama meets with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the White House, October 1, 2014.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
WASHINGTON -- Tensions between the United States and Israel have simmered for months and are now beginning to "spill over" into the public, several Obama administration officials acknowledged to The Jerusalem Post on Tuesday night.
Those tensions have been on full display in spats between aides of US President Barack Obama and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu over the treatment of their deputies, including Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon during his visit to Washington last week, and over a steady stream of continued settlement activity, including Netanyahu's approval of 1,060 units in east Jerusalem on Monday.
National Security Council spokesperson Alistair Baskey publicly rejected a new column by Jeffrey Goldberg, a prominent columnist on matters concerning the Israeli and American Jewish communities, on Tuesday night, suggesting Goldberg's assertion in the piece that relations are in "crisis" is a simplification.
"We do not believe there is a crisis in the relationship," Baskey said in an e-mail. "The relationship remains as strong as ever and the ties between our nations are unshakable."
"However, there are times," he continued, "when we disagree with actions of the Israeli government and we must raise our concerns, such as our concerns about Israel’s settlement policy. We raise these concerns as a partner who is deeply concerned about Israel’s future and wants to see Israel living side by side in peace and security with its neighbors."
But US officials confirm to the Post that the frustrations behind Goldberg's article are real.
Whether Goldberg accurately depicted the policy implications of those tensions is another matter.
In the piece featured in the Atlantic, Goldberg wrote that the Obama administration "may actually withdraw diplomatic cover for Israel at the United Nations."
The US holds permanent veto power on the UN Security Council, and in that position, has historically blocked efforts from the Palestinian Authority to circumvent peace talks with Israel for recognition as an independent state, or to prosecute Israel for alleged war crimes.
Corresponding by e-mail on Tuesday night, one senior administration official suggested that is not the case.
"We’re not going to get ahead of actions that have not yet been taken," the official said. "But our views remain firm. We strongly believe that the preferred course of action is for the parties to reach an agreement on final status issues directly."
Whether there will be administrative policy consequences for frustrating Israeli behavior has been a question for months, and one that officials say is "too soon" to ponder in a strained relationship just short of a crisis.
But on one major topic of concern to both governments— Iran— the Obama administration has questioned Netanyahu's commitment to a peaceful solution to concerns over its nuclear program.
According to Goldberg's reporting, US officials believe the Israeli government has missed its window of opportunity to conduct a successful strike against Iran's nuclear facilities unilaterally.
Despite US lobbying efforts to prevent such a strike— including assurances that it would provide all American means required to stop Iran's nuclearization itself— one source of Goldberg's called Netanyahu a "chickens**t... coward."
On this insult to the premier's leadership and character, senior officials declined to comment.