David Rothkopf

Forecast for Israel, clouds followed by possible catastrophe…

Here’s my view of the current state of play with regard to Israel, the Palestinian Territories and related issues in the Middle East. It’s a pretty complicated situation so I hope you don’t mind if it takes a longish sentence to summarize it: Iraq fatigue plus backlash against the perceived influence of an “Israel Lobby” ...

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Here's my view of the current state of play with regard to Israel, the Palestinian Territories and related issues in the Middle East. It's a pretty complicated situation so I hope you don't mind if it takes a longish sentence to summarize it: Iraq fatigue plus backlash against the perceived influence of an "Israel Lobby" plus strong sensitivity to the rights of the Palestinian people among influential American liberals plus the ascendancy of Bibi Netanyahu and Avigdor Lieberman in Israel suggest a coming rough patch for U.S.-Israel relations and, by extension, for Israel in general.

The United States will be achingly conciliatory to potential enemies in the region, will actively avoid confrontation and conflict, will bend over backwards to placate Palestinian concerns and inevitably Netanyahu and Lieberman will say and do inflammatory things. (For a good take on this latest bad twist in Israeli politics see "The Lieberman Disaster" by the wise Jeffrey Goldberg.) The biggest problem here is with regard to U.S. attitudes toward Iran where there will be an impulse to play down the linkages between Iran and Hamas and, more importantly (and that's saying something), parse too finely stages of nuclear development. This might mean accepting a nuclear weapons capable Iran even if what that effectively means is putting the brakes on their program at a point where nuclear arms can be created through just several additional months of effort. (Which by the way they will not do in public with a big ribbon cutting ceremony.) The Israelis absolutely will not tolerate this and conflict will ensue. First, the conflict will be political, potentially very intense and may well transform the U.S.-Israeli relationship. Later, the conflict may become military with the Israelis acting (alone or not) against the Iranians. The upside of the overall trend: the U.S. is perceived as more balanced in the region. The downside: the U.S.-Israel relationship is likely to weaken (I know some of you may see that as an upside)...oh, and also, possibly, nuclear Armageddon. The upside on having Netanyahu and Lieberman in charge: they establish a strong negotiating position for Israel. Only Begin could have met with Sadat. The downside: the marginalization of Israel as a legitimate political voice in the region (I know some of you think that has already occurred)...oh, and also, possibly nuclear Armageddon. Have a nice day.

Here’s my view of the current state of play with regard to Israel, the Palestinian Territories and related issues in the Middle East. It’s a pretty complicated situation so I hope you don’t mind if it takes a longish sentence to summarize it: Iraq fatigue plus backlash against the perceived influence of an “Israel Lobby” plus strong sensitivity to the rights of the Palestinian people among influential American liberals plus the ascendancy of Bibi Netanyahu and Avigdor Lieberman in Israel suggest a coming rough patch for U.S.-Israel relations and, by extension, for Israel in general.

The United States will be achingly conciliatory to potential enemies in the region, will actively avoid confrontation and conflict, will bend over backwards to placate Palestinian concerns and inevitably Netanyahu and Lieberman will say and do inflammatory things. (For a good take on this latest bad twist in Israeli politics see “The Lieberman Disaster” by the wise Jeffrey Goldberg.) The biggest problem here is with regard to U.S. attitudes toward Iran where there will be an impulse to play down the linkages between Iran and Hamas and, more importantly (and that’s saying something), parse too finely stages of nuclear development. This might mean accepting a nuclear weapons capable Iran even if what that effectively means is putting the brakes on their program at a point where nuclear arms can be created through just several additional months of effort. (Which by the way they will not do in public with a big ribbon cutting ceremony.) The Israelis absolutely will not tolerate this and conflict will ensue. First, the conflict will be political, potentially very intense and may well transform the U.S.-Israeli relationship. Later, the conflict may become military with the Israelis acting (alone or not) against the Iranians. The upside of the overall trend: the U.S. is perceived as more balanced in the region. The downside: the U.S.-Israel relationship is likely to weaken (I know some of you may see that as an upside)…oh, and also, possibly, nuclear Armageddon. The upside on having Netanyahu and Lieberman in charge: they establish a strong negotiating position for Israel. Only Begin could have met with Sadat. The downside: the marginalization of Israel as a legitimate political voice in the region (I know some of you think that has already occurred)…oh, and also, possibly nuclear Armageddon. Have a nice day.

MENAHEM KAHANA/AFP/Getty Images

David Rothkopf is visiting professor at Columbia University's School of International and Public Affairs and visiting scholar at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. His latest book is The Great Questions of Tomorrow. He has been a longtime contributor to Foreign Policy and was CEO and editor of the FP Group from 2012 to May 2017. Twitter: @djrothkopf

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