WASHINGTON -- What is the real story behind the old fishwives' yowling passing back and forth between Washington and Jerusalem these days? My dignified Maine Coon cat, Yankee, would be embarrassed were such 3-in-the-morning cries attributed to him.
One has to conclude that this is not just another of those old squabbles between the Americans and the Israelis. No, this is something different. This is the equivalent of a fractious married couple looking deep into each other's eyes and saying, "No, this is enough."
The Israelis -- and by that I mean only the government of hard-line Prime Minister Benjamin "Bibi" Netanyahu and his even more-rightist followers -- are arguing that "enough" is the Security Council resolution put forward in the United Nations as this preposterous year waned, once again condemning Israeli settlements that are spreading like wildfire over the supposedly Palestinian land of the West Bank, burning away every last hope for a Palestinian state.
Hardly new, but there are parts of the resolution, such as including the Israelis' sacred Western Wall under Palestinian territory, that are genuinely untenable.
But the really new part was that Washington did not kowtow, as it has for 36 years, to whatever Jerusalem wanted (at that moment), and abstained from voting on the resolution. Abstained? How dare Barack Obama do this to his "closest ally" and the "only democracy in the Middle East"?
As for Washington, the Obama administration sees "enough" as one too many insults and calumnies from Jerusalem and WAY too many promises that never even remotely came true. Over these last eight years, Bibi had repeatedly promised Barack that, yes, he would control Israeli settlement, which is a snarky way to move Israelis (many of them, ironically, Americans) onto land the entire world agreed to be Palestinian territory.
Instead, when the Oslo Accords were signed in 1993, there were roughly 110,000 settlers in West Bank and 146,000 in East Jerusalem territory; today there are an estimated 600,000! In addition, the Israeli prime minister has been pushing fiercely controversial legislation in the Knesset, the Regulation Bill, which would retroactively legalize settler outposts and homes built on privately owned Palestinian land -- and force the owners to accept compensation.
All this after the Obama administration, in the most generous act of American goodwill in the history of Israel, had agreed to provide the Jewish state with $38 billion in military aid over the next 10 years. Oh, there were complaints from Israeli negotiators; they had wanted $45 billion.
But instead of going along quietly this time around, the U.S. added language to the aid provision saying that, if Jerusalem were to go around the White House -- to the Congress, for instance, to get more money -- that money will have to be returned to the U.S.
This little-reported part of the aid announcement was revealing, for it showed, on the record, the deep distrust that exists between the two supposed "allies," plus the fact that the U.S. was tired of being the unappreciated donor.
And, of course, President Obama had not been exactly charmed when Prime Minister Netanyahu went around him and appeared before the U.S. Congress, unannounced to the White House, to argue against Obama's signature Iranian nuclear deal; or when Netanyahu announced new settlement building the same day Vice President Joe Biden arrived in Israel.
So, let's be candid for a rare moment about the United States and Israel. An honest man or woman is hard-put to argue with any sincerity that the two countries are truly allies. Israel surely depends upon America, not only for its military hardware but also for its moral and ethical support in the world, but what does America receive from such an "alliance"?
That support was graciously given back in the early days of the Israeli state, when Israel was made up almost entirely of the German-born Ashkenazi Jews who had immigrated to the new state; but once the Sephardic Jews from the Arab countries immigrated to Israel and were followed by the Russian Jews, attitudes toward the United States changed dramatically.
Today, in fact, history shows quite clearly that many of the major impulses behind the 2003 war in Iraq came from fervent American supporters of Israel, popularly and derogatorily referred to as the "neocons," perfervid ideologues like Dick Cheney, Paul Wolfowitz, Irving Kristol, among them. Thus, far from the U.S. involving itself in Israeli affairs, it is more true that Israel is deforming America's affairs.
Prime Minister Netanyahu, in his many derisive comments about the United States, now says that Israel has many other friends -- all over the world, he boasts! But the U.N. Security Council vote stands as a rather convincing refutation of such swagger, since the vote was 14-to-0 against Israel.
"The man who just a month ago told us that the world worships him declared war this evening on the world, on the United States, on Europe, and is trying to calm us with conceit," Isaac Herzog, leader of the center-left Zionist Union and the parliamentary opposition, wrote sardonically on Facebook after the U.N. contretemps.
And Ben Caspit, the respected political commentator for the Tel Aviv newspaper Maariv, wrote immediately afterward, "I hope for Netanyahu's sake (and also for ours) that he knows the truth at least deep in his heart -- it was the chronicle of a failure foretold."
It is becoming clearer every day, including to many in Israel, that the old agreements, if indeed they were actually agreements, are not working. Perhaps it is time for some new "truths" between these two so dissimilar countries.