An open diplomatic row during the visit of Vice President Joe Biden has shined a spotlight on the U.S. failure to rein in Israeli settlement ambitions and deepened Palestinian suspicions that the United States is too weak to broker a deal.That is exactly what I warned yesterday (Foreign Policy, "So Much For a Friendly Biden Visit to Israel," first comment) would happen if Obama did not react forcefully. A superpower cannot just go around invading everyone (Bush took that policy about as far as it could go) but must rely on reputation. Remember that Iraq and Afghanistan were both very tiny enemies - nothing remotely like Russia or China or India or Turkey...or Iran. When a superpower leader hands the initiative to a client state, it may or may not help the client but it certainly diminishes the power of the "super-" power. If you think America has something to give the world, then you must be saddened to see it voluntarily give away its power, especially to a country now being run by a fundamentally misguided bunch of nuclear-armed 19th century imperialists.
Israelis should not celebrate having defeated the US; rather they should think carefully about the meaning of the Biden visit: at this point, it has not only made a fool of Obama and undermined the reputation of the US as an honest broker and as an effective country, but--by weakening the US it has also endangered the security of its Israeli client. Israel is, as I have often said, the Mideast military hegemon, but so what? It could not even fight Hezbollah in 2006 for a few weeks without the US having to rush emergency supplies of jet fuel for all those bombers. Israel's nukes are hardly usable. Without a powerful and sympathetic US (as Tzipi Livni recently hinted at), Israel would be in real trouble. If Israelis keep stepping on the eagle's wing, Washington may some day do what Gorbachev did to Honecker - and we all do remember that gentleman, I trust.