TEL AVIV – United States Secretary of State Antony Blinken spoke on the phone with Israeli Foreign Minister Eli Cohen on Thursday, in an attempt to lower tensions after President Joe Biden’s statement on Tuesday that he will not soon invite Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to the Whites. House.
State Department spokesman Vedant Patel told reporters that in his conversation with Cohen, Blinken was “reaffirming the importance of the enduring bilateral relationship between the US and Israel.”
The phone call between Blinken and Cohen is unlikely to mend the ever-widening rift between Jerusalem and the Biden administration. From a country with an almost mythical influence in Washington, long courted by regimes not so much trying to enter the White House, the Israeli government has become a pariah almost overnight. Netanyahu himself is on his way to a White House B-list that includes Turkey’s Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. At this rate, he may even win himself a place next to Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Netanyahu’s return to power after the November 1 elections at the head of a solid ultranationalist Knesset coalition was widely welcomed at home and abroad. In response, the Biden administration took a simple thumbs-down – it would waste no time dealing with the radical nationalists in power, such as National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir and Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich, and hold Netanyahu accountable their actions and policies. Biden, who has known Netanyahu for four decades as a generally cautious leader, appeared to take the Israeli leader at his word, albeit with skepticism, when he promised to keep both hands on the wheel.
But as his government continued its legislative rush to weaken the judicial system, Americans publicly let Netanyahu know they expected him to stop the juggernaut. Privately, US Ambassador Tom Nides issued stern warnings.
The American gloves came off last weekend, after Netanyahu fired Defense Minister Yoav Gallant, in what the US administration sees as an island of sanity in an increasingly turbulent and radicalized Israeli political arena. Netanyahu had kicked out their one reliable ally, leaving the United States and the Middle East in the hands of Ben-Gvir and Smotrich – the man who recently called for the destruction of the village of Huwara in the Palestinian West Bank.
Gallant’s dismissal reverberated through the Pentagon, the National Security Council and the State Department, and resulted in Biden’s open display of devotion to Netanyahu. Asked this week if he would invite Netanyahu to the White House now that he has agreed to negotiate with the opposition over his controversial measures, Biden replied sharply, “Not soon.” The administration has clearly lost patience with Netanyahu. In his comments to reporters this week, Biden’s body language showed that the Zionist and self-described admirer of Israel had many of Israel’s manipulative leader and his allies, some of whom lambast his administration for interfering in Israel’s domestic affairs. . and claiming that Israel can be managed just fine without its ally the US.
One of them is the prime minister’s son, Yair Netanyahu, who is said to have decisive influence over his father and a group of hard-line lawmakers and government ministers. Yair Netanyahu uses Twitter and a talk show he hosts on a far-right radio station to spread conspiracy theories and smear anyone he sees as a threat to his father’s hold on power. Netanyahu Jr. is said to be encouraging an increasing number of absurd decisions. In recent weeks, he has been claiming that the Biden administration – specifically the CIA and the State Department – is trying to overthrow Israel’s duly elected prime minister. A sign held high at the pro-Netanyahu Tel Aviv rally this week read, “Fuck Biden.”
Similarly, Deputy Knesset Speaker Nissim Vaturi of the Likud accused the Americans this week of being responsible for the deaths of Israeli soldiers due to an alleged arms embargo imposed on Israel during its 2014 war with Gaza Islamists. Netanyahu Jr. knows. that he is spreading fake news, but he doesn’t seem to care. The Democrats are the enemy, like Bolsheviks, anti-Semitees and Biblical Amalekites.
The White House issued a somewhat placating statement March 29 to soften the edge of Biden’s harsh comments, but the administration is clearly furious at the damage and damage Netanyahu is doing to Israel and the Middle East. If they needed more proof, all they had to do was hear that Netanyahu promised Ben-Gvir to establish a National Guard under his command rather than under police command – in response to Ben-Gvir’s threat to resign from the government after Netanyahu put the legislative reform on hold.
Ben-Gvir, with many indictments from previous years, met this week with the parents of three Jewish youths who were being held without trial on suspicion of inciting and directing last month’s rampage in the Palestinian village of Huwara , burning cars and houses. Gallant, accepting the Shin Bet security agency’s assessment of their danger, signed the unusual “administrative detention” order usually used against Palestinian terror suspects. However, his government colleague Ben-Gvir promised the parents that he would work to revoke the order.
In line with the policy adopted since Netanyahu came back to power, the Israeli prime minister is responsible for this dangerous turmoil of the Biden administration. For the first time in nearly 75 years, Washington does not trust an Israeli leader at the most basic level. He is not sure that Netanyahu calls the shots, he is not sure that he makes rational decisions and he is not sure how much control he has over his government and his coalition.