Three questions for Marwan Bishara

What to expect from Benjamin Netanyahu's trip to Washington, DC.

    This is no ordinary 'family feud' as some friends of Israel like to portray the rift, writes Bishara [AP]
    This is no ordinary 'family feud' as some friends of Israel like to portray the rift, writes Bishara [AP]

    Marwan Bishara, Al Jazeera's senior political analyst, on the personal, bilateral and strategic implications of Netanyahu's trip to Washington, DC.

    How does the trip affect the relationship between Netanyahu and Obama? 

    One could say with a degree of certainty that the personal relationship has worsened and is severely damaged. Even if Netanyahu tries to smooth things over in his speeches, the bitterness is sure to last. 

    This is no ordinary "family feud" as some friends of Israel like to portray the rift between the US president and the Israeli prime minister. It's a culmination of different factors.

    Obama was obviously shocked and distraught by Netanyahu's attempt to lecture him at the White House about the illusions of peace in the Middle East. He was also dismayed by Netanyahu blatant support for Mitt Romney during the last presidential elections.

    So in many ways, the bad chemistry is also the result of bad politics and ideological divergence.

    Ever since the US turned to the left with the election of Obama, and Israel turned further to the right with the election Netanyahu six years ago, the personal relationship has been edgy at best.

    And by the way, there wasn't much chemistry between US President Bill Clinton and Netanyahu in the 1990s.

    What are the implications for the bilateral relations?

    So much has been said about the trip being short-sighted, problematic, counterproductive and even "destructive to the fabric of the relationship" between the US and Israel, to quote Obama's National Security Adviser Susan Rice.

    Such dramatic rhetoric will have a lasting effect on the diplomatic aspect of the relations between the two countries. It will set a new precedent, and even cause limited damage, but it's not devastating.

    In reality, the relationship will take a hit, but will remain strong. In fact, today, as the diplomatic spat goes on, the military, economic and even cultural cooperation continues unabated. Indeed, the Obama administration is either silent or supportive of Netanyahu's belligerence in occupied Palestine.

    It remains to be seen how the controversy will affect the American Jewish community and the Israeli lobby.  The Republican Party leadership hopes that the new manoeuvre will sway many influential Jews and pro-Israel Democrats to change party line come next elections.

    More importantly, leading Democratic and Republican candidates for the US presidency, Hillary Clinton and Jeb Bush, are likely to continue supporting Israel, dare I say unconditionally.

    What then are the implications for US policy towards Iran and the Middle East?

    I doubt Netanyahu will change many peoples' minds in Washington and beyond. There's nothing new that he has to say that Americans on both sides of the aisle haven't already heard.

    The Israeli premier's attempt to portray the deal with Iran as a bad deal, even before it's signed, has already damaged his case. Likewise, Netanyahu's argument that the P5+1 Iran deal endangers Israel's very survival is such a hyperbolic exaggeration that hardly any of the US' partners in the negotiations with Iran take the prime minister seriously.

    Indeed, many in Washington take it for granted that Netanyahu is merely playing politics two weeks ahead of the Israeli elections. He might win over a few more Israelis as the leader who stood up for Israel, and lose a few because of his reckless approach to the special relationship with the US.

    Either way, he won't sway the Obama administration from making a deal with Iran over its nuclear programme if Iran meets the P5+1 requirements.

    The views expressed in this article are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect Al Jazeera's editorial policy.

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera


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