PALESTINIANS have long been suspicious of US-Israeli complicity and have every reason for being so.

I remember well back during the Camp David Summit of 2000 while based in Jerusalem, listening to how one Israeli government official explained away the nature of what President John F Kennedy back in 1962 first called the “special relationship”.

“The Palestinians always complain that we know the details of every proposal from the Americans before they do,” the Israeli official remarked. “There’s good reason for that: we write them.”

The relationship between the two nations was always a partnership based on more than Israel simply being a regional ally, or America a ready supplier of arms and military hardware. It was also a pact shaped and influenced by the political brokering of America’s Israel lobby in Washington’s corridors of power.

So influential has this lobby been on US policy that at times it’s often been difficult to tell just who was cracking the whip.

In fact the extent of the lobby’s power back then always seemed to me best summed up by the cheekily wry slogan emblazoned across T-shirts for sale in Arab shops in Jerusalem’s Old City bazaar.

“DON’T WORRY AMERICA, ISRAEL IS BEHIND YOU,” the message ironically reassured Washington doubters, beneath the diving silhouette of an Israeli F-16 fighter-bomber.

Given the extent of such historic interdependency it would be wrong then not to acknowledge the significance of the latest fall out between the two allies. The aid factor alone as I’ve already mentioned gives some measure of what’s at stake here for Israel. 

For what Washington bestows upon its ally now lies in the region of more than $300 billion (allowing for inflation) with Israel the biggest recipient of US military aid since the Second World War.

Annually, the US continues to provide Israel with something to the tune of $3.8bn of support over and above other arms deals, security guarantees and benefits. 

What then to make of this week’s spat which saw Israel cancel a high-level visit to Washington when the UN Security Council passed a resolution demanding a ceasefire in Gaza after the US abstained in a vote?

In the first such demand since the war began in October, the resolution called for an immediate cessation of hostilities for the holy month of Ramadan, of which only a short period remains.

The National: Benjamin Netanyahu

Given that Washington traditionally shields Israel from UN votes it opposes, Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu (above), was none too pleased to say the least. 

Not only had Ron Dermer and Tzachi Hanegbi, members of Israel’s war cabinet and close confidants of Netanyahu, been due to travel to the US to discuss the looming invasion of Rafah, which Washington opposes, but it transpires that Israeli defence minister Yoav Gallant, who is widely seen in Israeli political circles as a rival to Netanyahu, was already there for a separate visit.

If nothing else it was yet another indicator of the fissures that have opened up within Israel’s political ranks since the war in Gaza has intensified.

The Biden’s administration’s decision at the UN also reflects not just growing international pressure on the White House but domestic concerns too in what after all is a US presidential election year and many Democrat voters are far from happy with Joe Biden’s kowtowing to Netanyahu to date. 

It would be nice to think perhaps, as Jon Hoffman wrote this week in Foreign Policy magazine, that finally the moment has come when Americans have woken up to the fact that Israel far from being an asset in the Middle East, has in fact become a strategic liability. 

In short, historically it’s been one-way traffic with Washington bowing almost to Netanyahu’s every whim while in return all the US gets is a series of reactive flashpoints in the region that could well drag the US into a full-scale war. Sound familiar? 

For years the special relationship America has had with Israel has acted like a dangerous sea anchor threatening on countless occasion to tip the US into the depths of a crisis it doesn’t need, even if US foreign policy has an unerring gift for doing just that without the added drag of Israel. 

For his part, as Time magazine recounted this week, Netanyahu has an unerring gift of his own for getting up the noses of US presidents, especially – though not exclusively – Democrats.

The National: Bill Clinton

Few Middle East watchers can ever forget that famous encounter back in 1996 when Netanyahu lectured Bill Clinton (above) at the White House. In response Clinton was said to have responded to his senior staff: “Who the f**k does he think he is? Who’s the f**king superpower here?”

It would be welcome to think that what we are witnessing right now is the start of a potential reset in US-Israeli relations. Personally, I don’t buy that. Sure, Israel’s war in Gaza has created a moment from which the clock cannot be turned back. That things will change is certain, the only question is what and how? 

The UN resolution is to be welcomed, if nothing else it gives momentary respite of sorts to Palestinians and proves that any diplomatic impasse can be overcome if the will is there.

As for the idea of Washington turning over a new leaf when it comes to its dealings with Israel don’t bet on it. Let’s not forget that on three separate occasions the US has used its veto power to scuttle UN Security Council resolutions aimed at bringing a ceasefire to Gaza.

That streak might have paused for now, but let’s just see if Washington holds fast. The resolution calls for a ceasefire through Ramadan so that in itself is of a limited duration. 

The real test will come in whether Washington ceases its arms flow to Israel and reports suggest that the reason Israeli defence minister Gallant is actually in the US right now is to make sure that doesn’t happen and that he will request specific weapons for the ongoing war – rival to Netanyahu or not.

The bottom line here is that if Washington is serious, these arms will not be forthcoming and in their place there would be a total rethink of US support for Israel and action beyond empty rhetoric and symbolic gestures over Palestinian statehood.

I don’t for a moment believe that what we are about to see is any meaningful rethink over US relations with Israel. In fact I’d even go as far as to say it would be no surprise if they kissed and made up and it will be business as usual at Gaza’s terrible human cost.

Anyone who doubts this need only ask the Palestinians. They after all know all about such complicity and have lived with it for decades.