It takes an election to raise a peace flag.
So much was made of the allegedly deteriorated relationship between President Barack Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu during last year’s U.S. elections — remember Republican Mitt Romney’s tour of the Holy Land with Las Vegas casino magnate Sheldon Adelson — that it was written as a virtual statement of fact in some quarters. But the elections in the U.S. and Israel have left the two leaders standing, and Obama plans his first trip to Israel as president next month.
Even since the elections, Republicans in Washington have tried to keep the embers stirred, challenging Obama’s nominee for secretary of defense, Chuck Hagel, about his one-time referral to the intimidation of the “Jewish lobby” in Washington. Hagel, reframing his remarks to identify the pro-Israel lobby, acknowledged during Senate confirmation hearings that he could cite no instance in which that lobby had convinced any senator to act unwisely.
Now Michael Oren, the Israeli ambassador to the U.S., can be seen on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” downplaying the import of any perceived dispute between Obama and Netanyahu, whom Oren says have held many, “open, honest” meetings. And today, the Israeli embassy in Washington tweeted a lovely emblem of the “unbreakable allegiance” between the nations:
— Embassy of Israel (@IsraelinUSA) February 19, 2013
Whatever the actual state of relations between Obama and Netanyahu may be, it’s difficult to think of a time in recent years in which the alliance between the two nations has been more critical for Israel: Facing rocket attacks from Gaza, a rebellion in Syria that could yield an extremist regime even more worrisome than Assad’s, and, as Oren has put it, a “shrinking” window in the time frame in which outside military intervention could prevent Iran from fulfilling its perceived ambition of producing weapons-grade nuclear material.
“The entire region is in turmoil,” Oren said on Joe’s show today.
It’s a fair bet that the logo which the embassy unfurled on Twitter today will be seen, interspersed with the standards of the two nations, along the main streets of Tel Aviv and Jerusalem when Obama calls on Netanyahu.