Obama's stance worries Israelis
* Jason Koutsoukis
* April 18, 2009
CAN Israel still call the United States its best international friend? Apparently not, if you believe the tone of the local media.
Watching the drama unfold inside Israel, the increasingly tense dialogue between US President Barack Obama and new Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is taking on all the trappings of a duel.
Almost every day brings news of another sore point between the two countries, a source of yet further inflammation of their once warm relations.
One could be forgiven for thinking that the more immediate threat to Israel's national security lay across the Atlantic rather than from closer to home.
It is bad enough that President Obama uses almost every opportunity he can to set the parameters of a final peace agreement between Israel and the Palestinians. Now US officials are openly using Israeli anxiety over Iran's fledging nuclear program as a bargaining chip to force Israel's hand on giving up control of the West Bank Palestinian territory.
No less a figure than White House chief-of-staff Rahm Emanuel — whose father fought with the militant Zionist group the Irgun, and whose appointment had provided such reassurance to Israeli officials — was quoted this week laying down the law to Israel.
If Israel wants US help to defuse the Iranian threat, Mr Emanuel was reported to have told Jewish leaders in Washington, then get ready to start evacuating settlements in the West Bank.
Talkback radio blazed with fury across the country the same day, as Israelis protested that no US official had the right to tell them where to live.
Then on Thursday came the news that Mr Netanyahu's planned first meeting with President Obama in Washington next month had been called off.
Mr Netanyahu had hoped to capitalise on his attendance at the annual American Israel Public Affairs Committee conference in Washington to visit the White House.
But Administration officials informed Mr Netanyahu's office that the President would not be "in town".