The U.S.-Israel alliance “is crumbling” due to waning support for Israel among Democrats and “total disrespect” for the Obama administration among segments of the Israeli government, according to President Barack Obama’s former Middle East envoy Martin Indyk, in what was described as “a frank off-the-record talk” at the Adas Israel synagogue in Washington, D.C., during the Yom Kippur holiday.
Indyk, who left his role as U.S. special envoy for Israeli-Palestinian negotiations in July, lashed out at the Jewish state for showing “disrespect” to the Obama administration and warned that the historically strong U.S.-Israel “relationship is in trouble,” according to an audio recording of the event obtained by the Washington Free Beacon.
Indyk—who was revealed by the Free Beacon earlier this year to have spent time bashing Israel over drinks at a bar—has been identified by officials in both Israel and Washington as the primary source for numerous recent stories in the media blaming Israel for the failure of peace talks with the Palestinians, the Free Beacon adds.
In his comments Indyk also criticized the Obama administration for fueling perceptions that the United States is withdrawing from the region, a view that he said is the result of both the Bush administration’s intervention in Iraq and Obama’s withdrawal from Iraq and Afghanistan.
‘Cracking the whip’
Indyk said he “discovered” after years of bargaining with the Israelis and Palestinians that the U.S. no longer had the credibility it once did under past presidents. “What I think we discovered … trying to make peace this time around, was that we would crack the whip, but no one was responding to our whip cracks,” Indyk said. “That’s a change.”
This erosion in credibility is a “change which has occurred very recently,” Indyk said, adding that “our dominance has begun to wane.”
This problem has only been heightened by the Obama administration’s withdrawal from Iraq and Afghanistan, Indyk said.
“Now, as we withdraw from the region, which is the perception in the region of our withdrawal from Iraq, our withdrawal from Afghanistan, it has had I think a very dramatic impact on our ability to influence the players there, including Israel, but also the Palestinians,” he said. “And I do think when I compare our situation today as diplomats to the situation with the diplomats back in the 1970s, the leverage they had was far greater it seems to me in the Middle East than we experience when we try to exercise [it] today.”
Indyk went on to warn that U.S.-Israeli relations are at an all time low.
“The U.S.-Israel relationship is critical, is essential to Israel’s survival,” Indyk told the audience. “And the relationship is in trouble.”
U.S. support for the Jewish state is “the bedrock that Israel has always relied on … and I worry that bedrock is crumbling,” Indyk said, laying partial blame at the feet of Democrats.
“We have a situation,” he said. “Support amongst Republicans for Israel is really high. … But the truth is that most Jews are Democrats, and amongst Democrats support for Israel is only something like 43 percent.”
“That’s a huge gap, which is indicative of the fact that it has become a partisan issue,” Indyk added.
No respect from Israel
However, Indyk reserved his harshest criticism for the Israelis.
“On the Israeli side I see something which I’m really, really disturbed by, which is the total disrespect on the part of some on the right in Israel for the relationship with the United States,” Indyk said.
“And that manifests itself with right wing politicians standing up excoriating our leaders, who are trying to do their best for Israel,” Indyk said.
“Look to the [Israeli] Defense Minister, whose budget is supplemented to the tune of $3 billion dollars a year by the American taxpayer, standing up and calling the Secretary of State an obsessive messianic,” Indyk said. “That kind of attitude on Israel’s part is not ingratitude; it’s disrespect. It’s something that I find very, very disturbing.”
There is “some hubris” on the Israel side, an attitude that “we don’t need the United States anymore,” Indyk said.
After leaving the Obama administration in July, Indyk returned to the Brookings Institute in Washington, D.C. He had previously served as head of the think tank’s Saban Center for Middle East Policy, and rejoined as vice president and director of foreign policy.
Indyk came under fire last month after the New York Times reported that the Brookings Institute had accepted $14.8 million from the state of Qatar, a key funder of Hamas, at some point in the past year.
Qatar funding claim ‘scandalous’
When pressed by an audience member about the financial relationship between Brookings and Qatar, Indyk grew defensive and called accusations against him “scandalous.”
“Brookings is an independent research institution, none of whose funders are able to determine its research projects,” he said.
“I hope nobody really believes that I cashed a check for $14.8 million dollars, which is what’s going around in right-wing Jewish circles,” Indyk added. “We should all take a deep breath about some of these lurid, scandalous stories.”
Multiple sources confirmed to the Free Beacon that Brookings Institute leaders held a company-wide forum after the publication on September 6th of a New York Times article detailing Qatari regime donations to the think tank. The purpose of the forum, the sources said, was to allay concerns among Brookings staff over foreign government influence