The current diplomatic crisis between Israel and the United States is a manufactured one.
President Obama chose to exploit Israel's ill-timed announcement to build new homes in east Jerusalem as an opportunity to extract concessions from Israel and to demonstrate to the Arab world that the White House can rein in Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Obama, who has scant experience in Middle East diplomacy, has miscalculated on two fronts:
1. In creating this crisis, Obama has further weakened his standing on the Israeli street. And that's not an easy thing to do. As of September 2009, according to one poll, Obama's popularity stood at roughly 4 percent in Israel. Among other incomprehensions, Israelis (and many Americans) fail to understand why urban planning in Jerusalem infuriates the president but the Iranians building a nuclear bomb elicits his "outstretched hand." Indeed, Israel does not trust Obama and will be reluctant to follow him if and when the possibility for a viable peace deal ever emerges.
2. Peace is not possible right now. The Palestinians — Hamas and Fatah — are still engaged in a low-level war. This means that the entire Palestinian side of the peace equation is in disarray. Even if Obama did persuade Netanyahu to make major concessions (unlikely), the Middle East would be no closer to peace. In other words, Obama's big move to checkmate Israel was wildly premature.
This whole mess could have been avoided if Israel had not announced its plans to build in Jerusalem when the vice president was in town. But, more importantly, it could end now if the president would simply stop trying to manipulate Israel.
— Jonathan Schanzer is vice president of research for the Foundation for Defense of Democracies.