B’nai B’rith International is dismayed that a policy dispute is now being used by some to undermine the storied relationship between the United States and Israel. And it would be deeply troubling if a momentary disagreement is used in any way to derail peace efforts, challenge an important alliance, or divert attention from the major objective of the trip—stopping Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons.
Israel apologized twice to Vice President Joe Biden for overlapping with his visit its announcement that 1,600 new homes would be built in Jerusalem. At the conclusion of his trip, Biden reaffirmed the solid foundation of the relationship: “President Barack Obama and myself know that the U.S. has no better friend in the community of nations than Israel." And Biden also noted the U.S.-Israel relationship is: “impervious to any shifts in either country or either country's partisan politics."
Biden’s affirmation of the shared allegiance between the United States and Israel should serve as a reminder that such disagreements do not add up to irreparable damage. Two countries with a relationship as solid as the one Biden describes should be able to work through any diplomatic problems. Those who would characterize this as a major relational shift causing irreversible damage are exacerbating the problem. This is unfair to Israel, which, through various steps, including its unilateral withdrawal from Gaza and its recent opening of checkpoints in the West Bank, has demonstrated it willingness to go the extra mile to get negotiations re-started.
“A diplomatic dispute has now, unfortunately, derailed the original intent of the vice president’s visit: to focus on the global threat that a nuclear Iran poses,” B’nai B’rith International President Dennis W. Glick said. “But that in no way should detract from the bottom line: the United States and Israel are unshakable partners.”
Policy differences are to be expected in the complicated world of the Middle East. But such differences cannot be used to detract from the key issue—for Israel to live in peace. A policy dispute cannot change that.
“Allies don’t always agree,” B’nai B’rith International Executive Vice President Daniel S. Mariaschin said. “The incessant negative attention and harsh language surrounding this disagreement is a distraction from the real work that needs to be done to further Middle East peace and confront a nuclear Iran.”
The United States and Israel must intensify efforts to recall and implement shared goals and values—specifically peace talks. Israel is calling for negotiations without preconditions, and has accepted the “proximity talks” that could jump start a stalled process. This is where attention and focus must now return. It is incumbent now for the United States and Israel to ensure that the enemies of peace do not use a diplomatic dispute to release the Palestinians from their peace negotiation obligations.