Sunday, March 22, 2015


The acrimony between the US Administration and Israel's PM Benjamin Netanyahu is unpleasant.  Not since Suez has the bilateral relationship felt so bad, almost in free-fall.
The main actors look like hostages to pique.  And the underlings--the House Speaker and the Israeli Ambassador to Washington--are not helpful. 

It is almost absurd to witness the growing deterioration while at the same time being "water boarded" by the White House until the Iran deal is a fait accompli.  The "niceties" in Swiss five-star hotels look out of place while simultaneously the "Death to America" rallies fill the streets in Iran.  Nevertheless, Tehran continues to enjoy a free ride, while Netanyahu might end up under the bus like Mubarak before him...the President chooses to remain in "stony mode."

It is time to stop this folie a deux.  Everybody should pause. The Iranian deal is not a slam-dunk yet and the proof will be in the "fine print."  There are reasons which might speak in favor of a comprehensive, verifiable deal; there are causes for pessimism as well. President Obama chose to put himself under pressure with no acceptable excuse, other than the claim that this is the only way to deter Iran from going nuclear and to avoid a nuclear rush in the region.  I think that some American "allies" in the Middle East might start to question the guarantees of President Obama after seeing how he handles America's foremost ally in the region. Obviously mistakes were made on the Israeli side. The timing of the by now (in)famous speech before Congress was 'gauche."  Likewise, the Israeli "ambassador" in Washington should not depart from a more diplomatic "profile." Let bygones be bygones and let the parties reset their watches.

Any deal has also to take into account the political sensibility of the Sunni states if Washington wants to avoid losing the support of the trustworthy and gaining too little in return. Iran, like Islam, is in the grips of a nihilistic textual narrative. Negotiations without contextualization are risky. Israel is still the prime target of the official Iranian onslaught and is entitled to demand that the deal (?) include a long overdue overhaul of unacceptable Iranian imperatives.  The 5+1 formula might create some form of a buffer which could be welcomed by Israel, but the Chinese or Russian moves are more dictated by self-interest than by moral principle. Besides, any Diktat might be considered as a "nuclear Sykes-Picot" by all countries in the region.

Jerusalem and Washington must stop the aggravation and return to normal.  Obama might have been displeased (rightly so) but he should realize that a bad mood can lead to bad policy. Netanyahu must likewise understand America's geo-political gamble, but he should be consulted as the Saudis, Jordanians or Gulf States are.

A family quarrel is easier to ignite than to extinct.  Few disputes need as urgently to be ironed out as this one, the more so as it is so badly managed on both sides.

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