US, 'Israel': Unprecedented volatile relations to leave permanent scar
Relations between the two strategic allies hit historical lows in recent years as interests and priorities drift apart.
Relations between the Israeli occupation entity and the United States continue to tank, as tensions continue to rise between Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and US President Joe Biden, both of whom are facing internal political turmoils and a decline in local approval polls, Al-Monitor news website said in a report published on Friday.
The division emerged in the past few years between President Joe Biden's administration and "Israel", especially regarding the approach to Iran and the nuclear deal.
Since assuming office in 2022, Netanyahu has been unofficially barred from visiting the White House, indicating an unprecedented fracture in the alliance between "Tel Aviv" and Biden's administration.
However, the Prime Minister did not settle for keeping the dispute on the low. He has since banned all his cabinet from meeting with their counterparts in the United States, the most recent and significant case being Security Minister Yoav Gallant's trip to New York earlier this week.
Gallant, under Netanyahu's orders, did not meet with US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan, or any senior officials that handle and coordinate the strategic alliance between the two sides. The Security Minister did not even visit Washington or the Pentagon.
His trip was restricted to a family visit in New York, participating in a fundraising event, and meeting with UN chief Antonio Guterres. Yet, despite it being a previously unseen event, the trip did not make it to Israeli headlines.
"Such things have never happened," a senior Israeli security source, who requested to remain anonymous, told Al-Monitor, in reference to Biden's refusal to invite Netanyahu to the White House eight months into the Prime Minister's term.
On the other hand, Washington responded by dispatching US Assistant Secretary for Near Eastern Affairs Barbara Leaf and National Security Council Middle East coordinator Brett McGurk to meet with Gallant in New York.
Media reports said the parties primarily discussed rising tensions with Hezbollah on the Lebanese-occupied Palestinian borders.
The US Defense Ministry did not mention Gallant's meetings in any statement, the news site said.
"We can't remember an order by an Israeli prime minister that none of his senior officials hold working meetings with American colleagues in Washington as long as he himself is not invited there," the Israeli source continued.
There is, however, a notable exemption from this ban: Strategic Affairs Minister Ron Dermer, who is responsible for coordinating with US officials in relation to the efforts of normalization with Saudi Arabia.
The drift between the two governments, at its core, was due to the judicial overhaul launched by Netanyahu and his government's policies in the occupied West Bank - which Biden sees as an unnecessary escalation and a distraction to Washington's multi-front challenges in Europe and Asia, against Russia and China respectively.
The Israeli and American military and security establishments normally have extensive connections, with agency heads regularly communicating directly. These contacts cover various areas, such as operations coordination, arms procurement, and intelligence collaboration. Major issues are typically resolved by the army chiefs of both parties to ease bureaucracy and catalyze time-sensitive decisions.
However, in a major turn of events, this is not the case this year, as links between institutions from both sides are disrupted, awaiting a meeting between Biden and Netanyahu.
While Netanyahu and Biden held a phone call in July, where it was reported that the US President urged his ally to stop the judicial reforms process after the former announced that he was putting the legislation back on track, there was no immediate mention of a meeting, signaling that the conversation only aimed to portray ease of disputes in front of the public.
According to the report, Biden has agreed to meet the Prime Minister somewhere between September 17 and 21. But while Netanyahu hopes the meeting will take place in the White House - eyeing to make it an official event - it is also possible to take place on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly in New York, considerably devaluating its purpose.
"The president will meet the prime minister eventually, but Israel is not making it easy for us to schedule this meeting," a senior US official recently disclosed to Al-Monitor on condition of anonymity.
Earlier this week, the former Israeli Security Minister, who is now leading part of the opposition, told Channel 13 News, commenting on Gallant's lack of senior meetings in New York, that he "wouldn't have let that happen," adding that he "would have insisted."
Following Gallant's criticism of Netanyahu's judicial reform plans, the Prime Minister almost sacked the former in March. But he turned back on his decision due to major pressure, most effectively from the United States.
"I wish our deterrence against [Hezbollah chief Hassan] Nasrallah was on the level of Netanyahu's deterrence vis-a-vis Yoav Gallant," a senior Likud source told Al-Monitor on condition that his identity remained undisclosed.
In recent discussions with his associates, the Security Minister has expressed a preference for working to bring stability to the system from his current position rather than resigning. Evidently, he has reservations about the potential replacement that Netanyahu might select as his successor.
"Netanyahu is not in a rational situation," one of the associates told Al-Monitor on condition of anonymity.
According to him, Netanyahu is feared to make "absurd appointments" in the Security Ministry as well, so "it is better for Gallant to be inside and exert influence than to be ejected."
After the Knesset's summer break, which ends mid-October, Gallant will be up against major challenges.
Two controversial bills will be set back on the legislative track; permanent conscript exemption for young Haredi ultra-Orthodox men and a proposed bill equating the Torah service of yeshiva students with that of military personnel.
The bills have caused dispute within Netanyahu's Likud party as some members are in favor while others are opposed to it. The Prime Minister, on the other hand, declared his opposition to the proposed legislation, citing the need to ensure public stability now as a priority. His opinion was also shared by Gallant, albeit not publicly.