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U.S.-Israel Tensions Flare Up

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Israel and its chief ally, the United States, are squabbling over a variety of contentious issues.

Their strategic relationship is being buffeted by disagreements concerning the Iran nuclear agreement, the expansion of Israel’s settlements in the West Bank, the planned construction of Israeli neighborhoods in East Jerusalem, and Israel’s decision to brand several Palestinian civic and civil rights groups as terrorist organizations.

Tensions have also arisen over Israel’s opposition to the reopening of the U.S. consulate in Jerusalem and China’s involvement in Israeli infrastructure projects.

Last but not least, the United States is piqued that Israeli technology has been deployed by foreign governments to hack the phones of U.S. diplomats and spy on foreign journalists, human rights activists and dissidents.

These challenging issues will test Mike Herzog, the Israeli ambassador to the United States, and Thomas Nides, the U.S. envoy to Israel, both of whom are new to their respective jobs.

Herzog, a retired brigadier general and the brother of Israeli President Isaac Herzog, arrived in Washington on November 15, having replaced Gilad Erdan, a cabinet minister in Benjamin Netanyahu’s previous government.

Nides, a former deputy assistant secretary of state, landed in Israel on November 29. He is replacing David Friedman, a lawyer and business associate of Donald Trump, the former U.S. president.

It took the Biden administration almost 10 months to select Friedman’s successor. During the interregnum, the U.S. embassy was run by the charge d’affaires, Michael Ratney, the former consul general in Jerusalem.

Upon arriving in Washington, Herzog accentuated the positive. “The United States is Israel’s most important ally,” he said, noting that U.S. President Joe Biden is “a true friend” of Israel. “Together, we will work to deepen our cooperation.” Advertisement

Nides struck a similar tone. “The bonds between our two countries, as President Biden has said, are unbreakable,” he said.

Their comments are a reflection of the unvarnished truth. The United States has no better friend in the Middle East than Israel. And Israel has no better ally than the United States.

But even allies quarrel, and Israel and the United States are no exception to this truism. Over the years, they have clashed intermittently over a multiplicity of issues.

The most immediate point of contention between Israel and the United States today is the 2015 Iran nuclear agreement, or the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA). Israel, having denounced it since day one, was pleased when Trump pulled out of it in 2018. Like Netanyahu, Trump condemned it as a terrible deal that offered no guarantees that Iran would not morph into a nuclear power in the future. Advertisement

Biden, Trump’s successor, wants to rejoin and improve the JCPOA. Biden’s goal is to head off a regional war by building a “stronger and longer” agreement that will block Iran’s march toward a nuclear arsenal, defang its ballistic missile capability, and reduce its capacity to assist regional allies such as Hezbollah and Hamas, both of which seek Israel’s destruction.

Israel strongly believes that none of these objectives can be achieved at the talks in........

© The Times of Israel (Blogs)

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