Israel’s ties with the United States returned to its old, familiar format this week: a relationship between a small country and a great power. This is the most important result of the “flotilla affair.”
Obama conducted “proximity talks” between Israel and Turkey. The outcome was that Israel repatriated all the passengers on the flotilla, even those Israel depicted as “Al-Qaida supporters” and the Turks toned down their rhetoric.
And then the Americans dictated to Israel how the investigation will be conducted and also demanded the opening, to some extent, of the locked gates of Gaza. Netanyahu has agreed in principle. He is prepared to reexamine the closure on Gaza so that it will be focused on preventing arms smuggling and is even prepared to consider international involvement in its enforcement.
In the administration they understand Netanyahu is sitting pretty in his coalition and aren’t pinning many hopes on opposition leader Kadima MK Tzipi Livni or any other claimant to the throne. Therefore, they have decided to work with him and not against him, despite the huge difference in the way the two governments view the world.
Mossad chief Meir Dagan said this week in the Knesset that the administration had considered an imposed arrangement but has shelved it for the moment because it believed this would not bring peace. Dagan warned that Israel is gradually becoming a burden on the United States. In this week’s debacle, yet again, the Americans had to clean up the mess the Israeli forces left behind.
Obama came to Netanyahu’s rescue, and the prime minister owes him now. If not the dismantling of the settlements and the establishment of Palestine, then at least a bit of humility and gratitude, and perhaps also some easing of the closure on Gaza.