by Anat Shalev
JERUSALEM, March 19 (Xinhua) -- It's no secret the U.S.-Israel relations have soured over the past several years. Much of it has to do with personal animosity between Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and U.S. President Barack Obama.
Also, the two leaders do not see eye to eye on two major issues, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and the international community's negotiations with Iran over its nuclear program.
The alliance between the two countries is of vital importance to Israel. Israel is the greatest beneficiary of economic and military aid from the United States. Washington has also helped the Jewish state in weathering global criticism over its occupation of the West Bank and east Jerusalem following the 1967 Mideast War.
However, Netanyahu's victory in Tuesday's elections and his firebrand rhetoric in his last-minute campaign may further damage the closely-knit relationships.
In the past week, Netanyahu, in a bid to get re-elected, said there would be no Palestinian state if he wins the election, a betrayal to his commitment made in his seminal 2009 Bar Ilan speech to the two-state solution to end the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
He furthered angered critics within and outside of Israel by urging voters on election day to head to vote, saying Arab Israelis are bussed in "droves" to polls by left-wing organizations to topple his regime.
The White House was quick to criticize Netanyahu's comments on Wednesday, saying the Obama administration was "deeply concerned" by the prime minister's "divisive rhetoric," adding that a two-state solution is "the best way" to address the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
VETO OR NOT?
In 1975, two years after the 1973 war, Washington imposed limited sanctions on Israel by freezing discussions on weapon sales, as Israel objected to several clauses in an interim agreement with Egypt. Analysts believe that such a scenario of direct sanctions by the United States is far-fetched.
Prof. Eitan Gilboa, director of the Center for International Communication at the Bar Ilan University specializing in U.S.-Israel relations, believes that although there will be quarrels between the two, the United States would think twice before acting in a way that would further deteriorate their relations.
"There are enough important interests and shared values between the countries so that both sides will try to better the relations," Prof. Gilboa said.
"There's a potential for a head-on collision but also potential for calm," said the expert, adding that although Obama will retire in 2016, he would not want to isolate himself in the Democratic Party by angering the U.S. Jewish community jeopardize the prospects for the Democratic presidential candidate in the elections.
However, analysts said it was possible for the United States to stop sheltering Israel diplomatically in the UN by not vetoing resolutions that urge Israel to end occupation of the West Bank and east Jerusalem so as to facilitate the establishment of a Palestinian state.
"It's hard to assess whether the U.S. will decide not to use their veto," Alon Pinkas, an Israeli diplomat who served as Consul General of Israel in New York between 2000 and 2004, told Xinhua on Thursday, adding that there are, however, visible cracks in the automatic veto response from Washington.
A GIFT FOR THE PALESTINIANS
The Palestinian National Authority (PNA), headed by Chairman Mahmoud Abbas, has not stopped trying to form a Palestinian state unilaterally, following the deadlock in the recent negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians in April.
The PNA has submitted a number of draft resolutions to the UN, and joined the International Criminal Court in order to file charges against Israel for committing war crimes in last summer's 50-day mini war against Gaza.
Facing Netanyahu's hardline stance, the Palestinians seem to have been left with no other choice but to try even harder.
"The U.S. and Israeli officials have so far objected to any one-sided initiatives by the Palestinians, saying that an agreement should come to being through negotiations. But that is no longer the case, as Netanyahu removed his association with the concept of the two-state solution and so the U.S. is also not obliged to the claim against unilateral moves any longer," Pinkas explained.
"The Palestinians can now say they have no one to talk with, which would cause the U.S. to rethink its position altogether," he added.
However, with victory at hand, Netanyahu changed his rhetoric again. On Thursday, the prime minister said he is still up for the two-state solution, but does not see it happening anytime soon in and interview with MSNBC. Yet it is no easy job for Netanyahu to black out his previous statements altogether.
"He will say he will open a new leaf, but Obama will not believe him due to his low credibility while his policy of diplomatic stagnation and settlement construction will remain the same," said Pinkas.
"The U.S. will try to force him to reiterate his commitment to the two-state solution but he wouldn't be able to do it in the form of his 2009 speech, because if he does, his right-wing government would collapse," he explains.
"Netanyahu will find himself in an impossible position. The Palestinians will take this issue to the floor in the next UN assembly in September. The U.S. cannot keep the Palestinians from moving on with their initiatives if Israel does not declare its commitment to this idea anymore," he added.
TIES BEYOND REPAIR
While analysts differ on whether the relations between the United States and Israel can be fixed, they all agree that some form of collision is going to take place.
"The clashes will arise," Prof. Gilboa said, adding that President Obama is keen to have something done on the Israeli-Palestinian issue in the two remaining years to his presidency.
Obama's maneuvers for diplomatic legacy, however, is problematic to Netanyahu, who is in no hurry to change the status quo with the Palestinians, he added.
Whereas Alon Pinkas believes the relations are "broken beyond repair," Prof. Gilboa believes there are several measures Netanyahu could take to avert a major crisis by nominating a foreign minister and an ambassador who would communicate better with the U.S. officials.
Prof. Gilboa also speculate that things will not return to normal between the two allies, suggesting that Israel should establish close relations with other countries.
He said Israel, in the short run, still depends on the United States for diplomatic support, military aid, economic and commercial assistance, while in the long run, assuming China and India would become world powers, Israel might have to divert its efforts to make close alliances with those countries.