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article imageIsrael's US ambassador says relations suffering a 'tectonic rift'

By Joan Firstenberg     Jun 27, 2010 in World
The Israeli ambassador to the U.S. says relations between the two countries has now "moved beyond a crisis that can eventually pass".
Israeli Ambassador to the US Michael Oren told Israeli diplomats recently of the sharp deterioration between the two countries in advance of the visit to the White House early next month of Israeli prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu.
The reports that this isn't a crisis situation anymore
"There is no crisis in Israel-US relations because in a crisis there are ups and downs. Relations are in the state of a tectonic rift in which continents are drifting apart."
His analysis is likely to alarm Israel's politicians, who are feeling isolated and under pressure to do something over the blockade of Gaza and settlement building in the West Bank.
Oren says President Barack Obama has made judgments about Israel on the basis of cold calculation in contrast to his predecessors George W Bush and Bill Clinton, who were motivated by historical and ideological factors. He predicts that Obama is less likely to be influenced by pro-Israel supporters inside or outside the White House. He is quoted as saying.
"This is a one-man show."
Netanyahu and Obama will meet in Washington on July 6. Earlier talks had to be postponed since they followed Israel's deadly assault on the flotilla of ships attempting to break the Gaza blockade.
Netanyahu would like for this meeting to be seen as a success after a string of difficult issues have ruptured relations. His last visit to Washington ended with what was widely interpreted as a snub when President Obama declined to hold a photo-op with the Israeli leader.
The agenda of next week's meeting could be tough for Netanyahu. Obama is expected not only to discuss the flotilla debacle, but to press for further action to allow imports, exports and people to move more freely to and from Gaza. In addition, Obama is expected to again bring up the thorny issue of settlement construction. There is a 10-month partial freeze, which Netanyahu halfheartedly agreed to after months of pressure and negotiation, which will end in late September.
Oren's latest remarks go further than those he made in March after the crisis over an Israeli announcement of a big expansion to a Jerusalem settlement during a visit by US vice-president Joe Biden. At that time, Oren said US-Israeli relations were facing their worst crisis in 35 years.
Meanwhile, Netanyahu gave a robust speech before the Israeli parliament last week, warning that the Jewish state's legitimacy is under attack and criticizing the UN and other international groups for condemning Israeli policies and actions. He told them
"They want to strip us of the natural right to defend ourselves. When we defend ourselves against rocket attack, we are accused of war crimes. We cannot board sea vessels when our soldiers are being attacked and fired upon, because that is a war crime. They are essentially saying that the Jewish nation does not have the right to defend itself against the most brutal attacks and it doesn't have the right to prevent additional weapons from entering territories from which it is attacked."
More about Israel, Strained relations, Obama
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