2014-08-06 / Home

U.S.-Israel tensions are rising amid uncertainty of long war

By RON KAMPEAS JTA


Israeli Ambassador Ron Dermer addressing Jewish leaders at the National Press Club in Washington, July 28. 
JTA photo by Ron Sachs. Israeli Ambassador Ron Dermer addressing Jewish leaders at the National Press Club in Washington, July 28. JTA photo by Ron Sachs. WASHINGTON—

The dramatic developments in the war between Hamas and Israel have been accompanied by sharp ups and downs in U.S.-Israel relations.

The Israeli ambassador to the United States, Ron Dermer, made nice with the U.S. national security adviser, Susan Rice, before an audience of anxious U.S. Jewish leaders. But right before, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu bluntly vowed to continue Israel’s military campaign against Hamas, notwithstanding President Obama’s unequivocal demand for a cease-fire.

And within a day of Israeli and American pledges not to afflict one another with damaging leaks, Israeli television was running the transcript of what it said was a fraught Obama-Netanyahu telephone conversation.

The tumult in U.S.-Israel ties reflects the confusing and open-ended nature of the current war between Israel and Hamas, insiders and experts suggest.

“The [Israeli] government is confused, the [Israeli] public is confused, and I’m not sure the [Obama] administration is giving absolutely clear signals,” said Peter Medding, a political science professor emeritus at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem whose specialty is Israel-U.S. relations. “That’s not a good situation.”

In the first weeks of the war, Netanyahu and Obama seemed to be on the same page, with both leaders angling for ceasefires and putting the blame squarely on Hamas.

But as the war has dragged on, the leaders have been pulled in opposite directions. Obama has been concerned with the rapid growth of civilian casualties while Netanyahu has been concerned with the vast network of Hamas-built tunnels running under the Gaza-Israel border. 

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