“It was supposed to be a visit that would restore trust between the U.S. and Israel,” said Ben Caspit in Ma’ariv. Instead, “it was the visit that destroyed trust.” Vice President Joe Biden, one of Israel’s closest friends in Washington, came here last week to reaffirm U.S. friendship, and our government kicked him in the face. During Biden’s visit, the Interior Ministry announced the approval of 1,600 new housing units for Jews in a Palestinian part of Jerusalem—an act that amounted to a blatant dismissal of the Obama administration’s repeated pleas that Israel halt all settlement expansion. Biden was understandably furious. “They stabbed me in the back,” he reportedly said to aides. “They hurt me, President Obama, the United States, the peace process, trust, and everyone who believed that something could be done here.” He came perilously close to boycotting the state dinner with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
It was “a staggering example of diplomatic obtuseness,” said The Jerusalem Post in an editorial. The U.S. understandably saw the settlement announcement as an intentional snub. The Interior Ministry agency that approves settlement expansions, though, says it simply happened to finish the permit application on that day. If so, Netanyahu “had evidently failed to make it clear that he wished to be informed of any such developments.” Either way, Netanyahu looks “completely incompetent,” and he’s going to have a tough time “rebuilding trust.”
He’d better try hard, said Ha’aretz, because Israel is on “a collision course with Washington,” and we literally might not be able to survive such a crash. We simply can’t afford to alienate the U.S.—after all, we depend on America for economic and military assistance and to prevent Iran from gaining nuclear weapons. And it doesn’t need us anywhere near as much. “Israel is not America’s strategic asset, but America is the source of Israel’s strength, and it is essential to rein in the lunacy that threatens to shatter the link between the two countries.” Whether or not Netanyahu knew of the settlement announcement before Biden’s visit is beside the point. His continued insistence on pursuing West Bank settlements at the expense of the U.S. relationship “is now emerging as a strategic threat” to Israel.
That was already damaged, said Moshe Dann in Yedioth Ahronoth. In fact, we should be grateful for this incident, because it revealed the Obama administration’s “closet hatred of Israel.” If the administration truly believes that building a few apartments for Jews in Jerusalem is “an insult to the United States,” as Secretary of State Hillary Clinton put it, that means the Americans have completely swallowed the Palestinian premise that Jerusalem is negotiable. Now we know that Biden’s earlier words of “love and loyalty” to Israel were just “rhetoric meant to anesthetize Israelis against the reality of American policy.”