On a week in which Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu's visit to the White House brought American-Israeli relations front and center, it is worth highlighting an article published this past April by former Israeli Ambassador to the US Dore Gold.
The article is entitled "A Crisis in US-Israel Relations: Have We Been Here Before?" Gold answers this quesiton, of course, in the affirmative. (Side note: is it conceivable to use a title of this ilk and respond that no, we've never been here before?) "[W]e have had such problems at different times in the past," Gold writes, "and we have recovered each time." He provides examples from 1981 (Israel's destruction of Iraq's Osirak nuclear reactor) and 1989 (another diplomatic scuffle over settlements). "The United States and Israel have been tied by mutual strategic interest for many years," he explains, "and those interests will eventually trump the differences we're seeing today."
Gold cautions, however, that if President Obama "advance[s] a new division of Jerusalem, then in the months ahead the U.S. and Israel will be facing a serious crisis in their relationship".
I wonder if, when he wrote that in April, Ambassador Gold would have imagined that he would read only three months later that Prime Minister Netanyahu himself seemingly implied in unscripted remarks that certain parts of Jerusalem might be on the negotiating table.
Is this interpretation of what Netanyahu said a gross distortion of Bibi's real meaning perpetrated by journalists eager for a headline? Or is the possibility of dividing Jerusalem along some line or another truly hiding in the Prime Minister's thoughts? Bibi does seem to be in a peace-making mood, judging from his claim that peace is possible within a year. If so, perhaps this explains the President's newfound optimism about the peace process.
How much of all this is PR and how much reflects reality? I cannot pretend to know.