Whoever said “it’s all about the economy, stupid,” got it only partially right. It is indeed all about the economy, or at least half of it is about the economy. The rest is about a country’s national interest.
Typically, nations act or react to situations involving one of the above-mentioned
reasons; either to safeguard their economies or to protect their national interests. So when the president of the United States says, as Barack Obama said several months ago that solving the Middle East crisis was in the national interest of the United States the people concerned should have stood up and listened before it was too late. Now it may well be too late.
Or is it?
Reports that Israel’s ambassador to Washington Michael Oren made a comment that there was a “tectonic rift” in US-Israeli relations was played down with the ambassador saying he was misquoted due to transliteration in the Hebrew press. Mr. Oren said that what he said was there was a “tectonic shift” and not “rift.”
The truth is that whether he said it is a “tectonic shift” or a “tectonic rift” in US-Israeli relations is really beside the point. What is important here is to note that there is a “tectonic” change be it a shift or a rift - in US-Israeli relations underway. The rest is semantics. Well, almost.
Granted, there is a significant difference between a shift and a rift. But what is important and potentially disturbing for Israel - is that there is already a change of attitude in the Obama White House regarding continued unwavering support for the Jewish state.
Let’s back up a little bit and rerun the tape from a few months ago just before the visit to the White House by Israeli Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu. Shortly before the meeting, which by all accounts did not go as well as either side had hoped, President Barack Obama said that solving the Israeli-Palestinian dispute was in the national interest of the United States.
Call it shift or rift that in and of itself was a tectonic change in US foreign policy that both sides in the Israeli-Arab dispute failed to act appropriately upon. The Israelis, under the arrogant leadership of Mr. Netanyahu, thought they could brush off this historic change in US policy vis-à-vis Israel.
Mr. Netanyahu believed he could continue to funnel US policy regarding his country as in the past. His great short-coming was that this change was monumental. For the first time in the history of the Arab-Israeli conflict the United States had indicated that Washington would no longer blindly support Israel and that progress needed to be achieved.
That short statement from the Obama White House indicated that there was far more riding on the outcome of future peace efforts between the Israelis and the Palestinians. This had now become a matter of concern for the United States.
Indeed, ever since the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon in September 2001 the United States had become a direct player in the Middle East conflict. Of course, the United States already was an active participant in the Middle East conflict, the major difference this time around was that the “homeland” became a participant in the conflict.
It was not just US troops fighting overseas that were concerned but the conflict was now involving US citizens back home. In a single day more Americans died in their home country that US troops overseas in the previous year. The Middle East war had come to Manhattan and to the banks of the Potomac River. This was when the national interest of the United States became a direct factor in the Middle East imbroglio and a matter of concern for the White House.
The Palestinians and the Arabs on their part failed to grab the bull by the horns and make use of the historic change in US attitude regarding the stalled peace talks. The moderate Arabs, Egypt, Saudi Arabia and the oil rich Gulf states ¬ should have pressured the Palestinians into showing the United States that they were ready, willing and able to negotiate a realistic and lasting peace with Israel. It was time to cut the rhetoric which to date got the Palestinians nowhere.
The leadership in the Palestinian territories should have used all its power and all its clout to get the Arab countries to exert the maximum amount of pressure on Hamas to agree to move out of the dullards in which the peace process now rests. Had that been accomplished, history would have been very different today and we would not be talking about the difference between a tectonic shift or rift.
Instead, we would be talking about positive movement in the peace process. But I am a dreamer and an eternal optimist.
By. Claude Salhani for OilPrice.com