I believe that US-Israeli relations will soon take a difficult turn at the beginning of next year, after President Obama is sworn in officially on 20 January.
Indications of this transformation stem from four key positions:
First: the fact that there has been no meeting between Obama and Netanyahu for an unusual amount of time in relations between Washington and Tel Aviv.
Second: The US administration has begun looking to select a high level political personality to succeed Hillary Clinton in the US Secretary of State position. It has been said that among the most important attributes of the new candidate is the ability to confront the intransigence of the Netanyahu government.
Third: There is talk about appointing an alternative diplomat to Susan Rice, the current US envoy to the UN, after her failure to handle her portfolio and with the US role being limited in recent years to using its veto power or resorting to diplomatic clashes with others.
Fourth: The Secretary of State’s decision and the comments from the White House the day before yesterday, regarding the Netanyahu government’s insistence to continue with its settlement policy, saying that it completely damages the possibility of continuing serious negotiations with the Palestinians.
There are rumors that the US administration is attempting to market Ehud Olmert as an alternative to Benjamin Netanyahu, as a man who would be able to negotiate with Mahmoud Abbas and the Palestinian Authority, and open the door with Hamas.
Olmert recently told CNN of his support for Palestine to become a so-called “observer state” at the UN General Assembly, which was an encouraging sign for the Obama administration.
Traditionally speaking, the US President is better equipped to adopt stronger positions in his second term, especially with matters relating to Israel.
In Reagan’s case, his stance became stricter after the invasion of Lebanon, although in the case of Nixon, he didn’t get to achieve his dream of a second confrontation because he did not complete his second term.
As for President Clinton, he oversaw the greatest American document, speaking about the future of the Palestinian state and Jerusalem, in December 2000, 50 days before the end of his second term.
Israel must reconsider the man it wants for the coming stage: Netanyahu or Olmert?
The US administration must also choose what it wants; a vocal position but one that does not transfer words into action, or one that actively encourages the completion of the two-state project along the 1967 borders?