The Times has an interesting piece on relations between Israel and the US (part one of a two-part series). The piece focuses on how Israel disagrees with the Bush adminstration’s plans for a “new Middle East,” instead, preferring to deal with autogratic but stable regimes like those of Egypt and Jordan. Israel is afraid of a democratic Middle East in which Hezbollah is part of the government in Lebanon, Hamas is elected in Palestine and the Muslim Brotherhood is very popular in Egypt.
Other rifts include Washington’s stance on Iran and fears that the US will engage Syria and Iran or ask Israel for conecessions towards Palestinians in order to get the support of China, Russia and Europe for sanctions against Iran:
Gidi Grinstein, a former Israeli negotiator who runs an independent policy center, the Reut Institute, says Israel and the United States share a larger goal on Iran but have “tension among their different objectives,” as indicated by Mr. Zelikow.
The Iran debate in Washington is serious but unfinished, Mr. Grinstein said, noting the divisions between those who argue that a nuclear-armed Iran can be contained and those who believe that Iran must not get the technology to build a bomb, much less the weapon itself.
Mr. Alpher, the former Israeli negotiator, is concerned that if Mr. Bush ultimately negotiates with Iran, “we need to ensure that the United States doesn’t sell us down the river.” It is fine for Israel to say that Iran is the world’s problem, he said. “But if the world solves it diplomatically,” he added, “will it be at our expense?”
The world looks different to nearly all Israelis across the political spectrum than it does to people in most other countries. “Unlike Bush, an Israeli leader looks at Iran through the prism of the Holocaust and his responsibility to the ongoing existence of the Jewish people,” Mr. Alpher said. “It may sound pompous, but at the end of the day it matters, and so we may be willing to do the strangest things.”
Somehow, it seems healthy that both Israel and the US are acknowledging that they might have different goals and interests. After all, this is how all other allies interact. The myth that there is a mysterious perfect dovetailing of Israeli and American interests is a myth and probably does more harm than good, at least for the US.
The Israel lobby is quick to charge that any accusations of double allegience from the pro-Israel movement is just classical anti-semitism. However, the recent AIPAC spy case (see indictment here, would suggest that some of these fears are not entirely without merit.