Although Israeli officials publicly play down the crisis in relations between the United States and Israel, privately the language is much different. Sources close to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu describe Obama as a "strategic catastrophe" for Israel.
Officials in the prime minister's office, speaking on condition of anonymity to the nation's media, see the Obama administration as a serious threat to the future of the State of Israel. On the record, Israel and the U.S. have a strategic partnership that is unbreakable. Off the record, that once strong partnership now seems to be a thing of the past.
One Netanyahu official said, "President Obama has drawn a clear line, supporting the Palestinian positions at the expense of Israel." He added: "It is sick. It is insane. Relations between Jerusalem and Washington are now simply disastrous. The situation has never been so dangerous. This US president wants to establish a Palestinian state at any price and hand them Jerusalem on a silver platter."
Netanyahu has carefully avoided making such public statements, but commentators say that he feels the rift very strongly. A newspaper reported he told his Cabinet that Israel's relations with the US are at a low point, and Obama seems to pose a possible great danger to Israel. The current widespread feeling among the Israeli public is that Obama is appeasing the Moslem world at the expense of Israel.
Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Aboul Gheit said recently on Nile TV, "The American president told me in confidence that he is a Moslem." That could explain why Obama has instructed that the term, "Islamic extremism," no longer be used in official government documents and statements.
Even the US Congress considers Obama's behavior toward Netanyahu humiliating. Three-quarters of the House of Representatives, 337 of 435 members, signed a bi-partisan letter to him, expressing "deep concern over recent tension" between the two countries, and demanding that it be smoothed over quickly and in private. "Obama has become a real problem for Israel," one Congressman declared.
Israeli media quoted an Israeli official, who stated that "for the first time Washington has switched sides." He explained, "The Obama White House is putting pressure only on Israel, but does not expect anything from the Palestinians. These demands are unacceptable."
He continued: "The Americans know very well that Israeli construction has always been happening in East Jerusalem and the West Bank, and building in Jewish neighborhoods has never been frozen. Yet now they are confronting Netanyahu to stop it."
Israeli media also reported that Netanyahu invited Nobel Prize winning author and Holocaust survivor, Elie Wiesel, who is an American citizen, to his private residence and asked him to make it clear to his friend Obama how important Jerusalem is to the Jewish people. "Jerusalem was, is, and always will be the united capital of Israel," declared Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat. "Construction in all parts of Jerusalem will continue."
According to a poll by the Independent Media Review, more than 70 percent of Israeli Jews oppose a construction freeze in East Jerusalem, and only 19 percent support it. The survey also found that 70 percent believe the division of Jerusalem would only lead to more conflict, rather than peace.
Officials in Netanyahu's inner circle believe Obama's strategy is to force a change of government in Israel. They believe Obama has been buoyed by his domestic success in passing the controversial health care bill, so now he may think he can extend his success to the international arena by resolving the Middle East conflict.
But one official stressed that, "If Obama continues to underestimate Israeli resolve on Jerusalem and Israel's need for national safety and security, his peace efforts are doomed to failure."
(Today's column is a condensation of an article in the May issue of the Israel Today magazine, written by Israeli author Aviel Schneider.)
Dr. Al Snyder is a former professor of Communications at Liberty University in Virginia and North Greenville University. He has done extensive missionary work in Israel and Africa.