Martin Indyk says Gaza operation exacerbated tensions with Washington; accuses Israel’s right-wing politicians of ‘hubris’.
Former US envoy to Israeli-Palestinian peace talks, Martin Indyk, says the war between Israel and Hamas has also exacerbated tensions between Israel and the United States and accused right-wing politicians of dangerous “hubris” in displaying defiance of the US administration to gain political capital.
Indyk, interviewed by Foreign Policy, was asked about the impact of the conflict with Gaza on Israeli-US relations. “It’s had a very negative impact. There’s a lot of strain in the relationship now. The personal relationship between the president and the prime minister has been fraught for some time and it’s become more complicated by recent events,” Indyk said.
Indyk, who has also served in the past as US ambassador to Israel, conceded that congressional support for Israel was still strong, as is the cooperation between the two countries on defense and intelligence issues.
“But there are things happening in the relationship that should give people who care about the relationship — as I do – anxiety,” he added. He cited, in particular, the fact that younger Americans are less supportive of Israel – as are Democrats.
“If Israel becomes a partisan issue in American politics, the US-Israel relationship will then be weaker as a result. And if the next generation is less supportive than the current generation… that will erode the fundamentals of the relationship over time. So I think there’s a warning bell ringing that people need to pay attention to.”
Indyk also pointed to changes in Israel’s attitude toward the United States. “Israel is not anymore the weak and small and dependent state that for so long characterized its position in its relationship with the United States. Now it has a strong army. It has a strong economy. And it has developed relations with world powers that it didn’t have before.
“I think there’s a sense in Israel, particularly on the right, that they can afford to be defiant of the United States.
“Now some politicians on the right feel that standing up to the United States is a cheap way to assert their independence and patriotism. I don’t remember a situation before where right-wing Israeli politicians could disparage the United States’ leadership and yet gain popularity. And maybe it’s because they don’t seem to pay any price for it. But I suspect that it’s something deeper. There’s a sense that Israel has become a power in its own right, and it doesn’t need the United States as much. It’s a kind of hubris.”
Indyk said he had seen such an attitude 40 years ago, before the 1973 war, “when Israelis felt they were the superpower in the region and so didn’t have to worry about support from the United States. And it turned on a dime once Egypt and Syria attacked Israel by surprise and suddenly Israel found itself totally dependent on the United States. So it may be that the bubble of illusion will burst here too and Israeli politicians on the right will come to understand that for all their bravado, the United States is not just Israel’s most important friend but in a real crunch its only reliable friend.”
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