Gaza rift: ‘The sense is that Americans are disgusted with Netanyahu’

Israel denies relations with the US have deteriorated. Yet arms shipments to the Jewish state are being blocked as concerns grow over the large number of Palestinian casualties

Jerusalem

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office has denied reports of a crisis in US-Israeli relations over the Gaza war, after the state department confirmed a new policy of placing weapons shipments to the Jewish state under closer scrutiny due to concern over the large number of Palestinian civilian fatalities.

Israeli officials, speaking to the liberal Israeli newspaper, Haaretz, confirmed that delivery of a consignment of Hellfire missiles, which are fitted to helicopters, has been blocked by the US since late last month as part of the American decision to impose limits on the transfer of weaponry that could be used in Gaza. The suspension, the first of its kind in more than three decades, was first reported in an article in The Wall Street Journal on Thursday.

The article added that the Obama administration was convinced Israel had not done enough to minimise civilian casualties and that its concerns included the use of artillery rather than more precise weaponry in the densely populated coastal enclave.

Israel says Hamas uses the civilian population as human shields and thus bears sole responsibility for the casualties. It sees US criticism over the Gaza toll as falling short of the unqualified support it believes it deserves in combatting a terrorist enemy.Mr Netanyahu’s spokesman, Mark Regev, said he had no knowledge of the Hellfire missiles being suspended. “We made a request and expect it to be fulfilled. There is no crisis, on the contrary the prime minister used the word terrific a few days ago to describe the support we have received from the US. Obviously our positions aren’t always identical but we are bound by common strategic interests and common values. We have a unique partnership.”

 

Politicians and analysts are less sanguine and say relations have deteriorated sharply during the Gaza fighting. “There is a worrying trend and we can’t allow it to continue,” said the finance minister and Yesh Atid party head Yair Lapid. “Our relations with the US are a strategic asset that must be maintained.”

“The sense is the Americans are totally disgusted with Netanyahu,” says Galia Golan, a political scientist at Interdisciplinary Centre in Herzliya, near Tel Aviv. “It’s something close to a crisis but it will be patched up because the administration can only go so far due to popular support for Israel and the fact there will be too much pressure from congress.” Likely 2016 presidential hopeful Hilary Clinton this week threw her support behind the Netanyahu government, blaming Hamas for the civilian casualties and endorsing continued Israeli security control over the occupied West Bank.

The Obama administration’s concern over civilian casualties came to the fore after Israel launched its ground operation in Gaza on 17 July. As Israeli shells hit UN schools in Gaza that were being used as shelters for those who fled their homes, the US sought to distance itself from its ally’s actions.

On 3 August the US said it was “appalled” by the “disgraceful” shelling of a UN school in Rafah that killed 10 people. The army said it targeted  three militants on a motorbike outside the school.

Palestinians buy fruit and vegetables yesterday in Gaza City as a new five-day ceasefire went into effect Palestinians buy fruit and vegetables yesterday in Gaza City as a new five-day ceasefire went into effect (Getty Images)
Israel and the US also clashed over ways to bring about a ceasefire, with Secretary of State John Kerry enlisting Hamas allies Turkey and Qatar because of their leverage with the Islamist movement, while Israel wanted more time to deal blows to Hamas and insisted Egypt should be the sole mediator.

On 25 July, Israeli officials heaped scorn on Mr Kerry, blasting him in the media for purportedly being overly accommodating to the Turks and Qataris and acting against Israel’s security concerns. The current ceasefire talks are taking place without a US role.

In a sense, the Gaza rift is a continuation of US-Israeli tensions over the Palestinian issue, which have persisted since Mr Obama took office, pressing for a freeze on the illegal Israeli settlement building in the West Bank. Continued Israeli settlement construction and creeping annexation of the West Bank by Mr Netanyahu was seen by the Americans as one of the reasons for the failure of Mr Kerry’s efforts to broker an Israeli-Palestinian agreement. Israeli analysts say that also fuelling the distrust was Mr Netanyahu’s backing for Mr Obama’s rival, Mitt Romney in the last US presidential contest.

Meanwhile, Mr Obama is seen by the Israeli government as being “weak and misguided” according to Efraim Inbar, director of the Besa Center for Strategic Studies at Bar Ilan University. From attempting to engage Iran, to failing to back up a threat to use force against Syria over use of chemical weapons, to turning a cold shoulder to Egypt’s Abdel-Fattah al-Sisi to enlisting Turkey and Qatar for the Gaza ceasefire, “this administration simply does not understand who are their allies and who are their enemies. It’s strategic confusion”.

But Mr Inbar believes that President Obama cannot undo close Israeli-US ties. “The relationship is anchored in a long history and there is lots of domestic American support for Israel. We will survive Obama, the question is the price.”

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
News
ebooksNow available in paperback
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: IT Support Technician - 1st Line

£15000 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They have been providing local ...

Recruitment Genius: Field Sales Executive / Trainee Managers

£6000 - £50000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They are looking for smart, orga...

Recruitment Genius: Receptionist / Sales / Customer Service Assistant

£8 per hour: Recruitment Genius: The role is likely to be 4on 4 off, days and ...

Recruitment Genius: PCV Bus Drivers / Car Movers

£8 per hour: Recruitment Genius: Do you enjoy bus driving and are looking for ...

Day In a Page

Refugee crisis: David Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia - will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi?

Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia...

But will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi, asks Robert Fisk
Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

Humanity must be at the heart of politics, says Jeremy Corbyn
Joe Biden's 'tease tour': Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?

Joe Biden's 'tease tour'

Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?
Britain's 24-hour culture: With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever

Britain's 24-hour culture

With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever
Diplomacy board game: Treachery is the way to win - which makes it just like the real thing

The addictive nature of Diplomacy

Bullying, betrayal, aggression – it may be just a board game, but the family that plays Diplomacy may never look at each other in the same way again
Lady Chatterley's Lover: Racy underwear for fans of DH Lawrence's equally racy tome

Fashion: Ooh, Lady Chatterley!

Take inspiration from DH Lawrence's racy tome with equally racy underwear
8 best children's clocks

Tick-tock: 8 best children's clocks

Whether you’re teaching them to tell the time or putting the finishing touches to a nursery, there’s a ticker for that
Charlie Austin: Queens Park Rangers striker says ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

Charlie Austin: ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

After hitting 18 goals in the Premier League last season, the QPR striker was the great non-deal of transfer deadline day. But he says he'd preferred another shot at promotion
Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea
Tunisia fears its Arab Spring could be reversed as the new regime becomes as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor

The Arab Spring reversed

Tunisian protesters fear that a new law will whitewash corrupt businessmen and officials, but they are finding that the new regime is becoming as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor
King Arthur: Legendary figure was real and lived most of his life in Strathclyde, academic claims

Academic claims King Arthur was real - and reveals where he lived

Dr Andrew Breeze says the legendary figure did exist – but was a general, not a king
Who is Oliver Bonas and how has he captured middle-class hearts?

Who is Oliver Bonas?

It's the first high-street store to pay its staff the living wage, and it saw out the recession in style
Earth has 'lost more than half its trees' since humans first started cutting them down

Axe-wielding Man fells half the world’s trees – leaving us just 422 each

However, the number of trees may be eight times higher than previously thought
60 years of Scalextric: Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones

60 years of Scalextric

Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones