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Key crises in US-Israel ties

The current diplomatic crisis between Israel and the United States is the most vicious and public yet among only a handful of crises that have marred the close, long-running relationship.



Jerusalem: The current diplomatic crisis between Israel and the United States is the most vicious and public yet among only a handful of crises that have marred the close, long-running relationship.

US President Barack Obama`s frosty relationship with Benjamin Netanyahu hit new lows during the Israeli premier`s reelection bid this month, with the White House criticising inflammatory and racist remarks he made on election day.

Officials of the Obama administration last year infamously called Netanyahu a "chickenshit" for his approach to Middle East peace, after US-brokered peace talks collapsed, according to The Atlantic magazine.

The bad blood between Obama and Netanyahu is "unprecedented," Israeli historian Jonathan Rynhold told AFP.

"I don`t think we`ve ever had as bad a relationship between a president and a prime minister, and of course that has policy consequences," he said.
Perhaps the most significant crisis was in 1975, when Washington pressed Israel to withdraw from the Sinai Peninsula, which it had seized during the 1967 Six Day War.

But Israel refused to do so without a full peace deal with Egypt, prompting US president Gerald Ford to inform Israeli prime minister Yitzhak Rabin that Washington would conduct a "reassessment" of bilateral ties. 

US arms shipments to Israel were halted during that reassessment -- a significant step given the US`s position as Israel`s biggest provider of financial and military aid.

Israel eventually agreed to withdraw from Sinai, an agreement it formalised in a 1979 peace treaty with Egypt. US aid resumed.
Washington`s arrest in 1985 of American intelligence analyst Jonathan Pollard, who passed classified US information to Israel, caused a "major low" in the relationship, Rynhold said, and has since been a regular source of tension.

Washington sentenced Pollard to life in prison, prompting a series of Israeli attempts to secure his release, the latest of which was reportedly last year during US-brokered Israeli-Palestinian peace talks.
In a shaky start to cooperation between George H W Bush`s administration and Israeli premier Yitzhak Shamir, the US secretary of state very publicly rebuked Israel over conditions it sought to impose on Palestinian peace talks.

Bush`s secretary of state James Baker directed the following remarks to Shamir at a meeting with the House Foreign Affairs Committee:

"I have to tell you that everybody over there should know that the telephone number is 1-202-456-1414... When you`re serious about peace, call us.``
Two weeks before this months general election, Netanyahu travelled to Washington to give a speech to the US Congress, at the invitation of Republican House of Representatives speaker John Boehner, bypassing diplomatic protocol by not running it through the White House.

Incensed, Obama and dozens of Democrats boycotted the speech, in which Netanyahu railed against a possible US deal with Iran over its nuclear programme.

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