Israel's opposition leaders spent the past week trying to prove their relevance. On Tuesday, both former prime minister Ehud Olmert and Kadima leader Tzipi Livni accused Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu of wrecking Israel's relations with the US. Both Livni and Olmert claimed that Netanyahu is taking a knife to Israel's most valuable alliance by refusing to bow to US President Barack Obama's demand that the government extend the ban on Jewish building in Judea and Samaria for an additional 60 days.
As Olmert put it, "The United States, the great superpower, says: 'You held a building freeze for 10 months, now extend it by two months...'"
"Sure we are an independent state," Olmert allowed, but then he continued, "But doesn't reason, a sense of responsibility and foresight, justify giving two more months?"
Finally, he warned, "We can refuse the efforts by friendly states, but will we then be able to continue to conduct a relationship of goodwill with them in the future?"
So as far as Olmert is concerned, if Israel refuses to bow to the Obama administration's demand that Jewish property rights be abrogated for an additional two months, the US will be justified in ending its support for Israel.
Livni accused Netanyahu of sacrificing Israel's relations with the US in order to placate his coalition partners.
Olmert's and Livni's assaults on Netanyahu made clear that like most of their colleagues on the Left, they believe that relations between countries and relations between governments are the same thing. They recognize no distinction between ties with autocracies like Egypt and Jordan on the one hand and ties with democracies like the US on the other. In both cases, as far as the Left is concerned, alliances or conflicts between nations are determined by the status of relations between political leaders.
Assuming for a moment that Livni and Olmert are right about the nature of US-Israel ties, does it follow that Netanyahu is wrecking those ties by defying Obama? Tuesday's State Department press briefing indicates that this is not the case.
On Tuesday, State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley was asked, "Do you [i.e. the administration] recognize Israel as a Jewish state and will you try to convince the Palestinians to recognize it?
As Rick Richman at Commentary's blog noted, Crowley repeatedly tried to evade answering the question. Reporters were forced to repeat the question six times before Crowley managed to say, "We recognize that Israel is a - as it says itself, is a Jewish state, yes."
As for whether or not the administration will try to convince the Palestinians to recognize the Jewish state, Crowley could not bring himself to give a simple affirmative answer.
Caroline B. Glick is the senior Middle East fellow at the Center for Security Policy in Washington, D.C., and the deputy managing editor of The Jerusalem Post, where this article first appeared.
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