A week after the revelation of the harsh verbal attacks on Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Washington, US President Barack Obama suffered a crushing loss Wednesday in the Congressional midterm election.
There are people in Jerusalem who are wondering whether the Republican win in the Senate and in the House of Representatives will ease the tensions, and sometimes hostility, between Israel and administration officials.
The majority of the public in the United States, and mainly the politicians in the two houses of Congress, sympathize with Israel. We have also gotten accustomed to believe that the alliance with America is secured, almost automatically: Not just because of interests, but also because of shared core values.
And despite the Republican victory in the midterm election, we should not forget that there are many officials in Washington, including senior ones, who believe that Israel's policy harms the US in its battles in the Middle East, harms its values and harms its status in the world.
I recalled a shocking experience this week. In October 2005, on a rainy evening, I met with General William (Bill) Odom at the Georgetown University courtyard. Odom, a decorated soldier, served as director of the National Security Agency Under President Ronald Reagan. I got to know him when he became an international relations lecturer at Georgetown.
Until that evening, I had never heard him say anything against Israel. Yet within seconds, the general said angrily: "Yossi, the damn war in Iraq is because of you. Israel and the Jews are dragging us." I wanted to get a word in, but he went on fierily: "In my opinion, Israel has no right to exist."
I was shocked at the outburst. I said, "Bill, what's the matter with you? Haven't you had dinner? Is it just anti-Semitism coming out of your throat?"
Odom, who even in his 70s was shaved like a marine and wore high shoes, grumbled and walked away. We never spoke since. I telephoned a close friend who is very familiar with Washington and told him about it. He was surprised, but said: "Not everybody likes Israel."
Even if Obama finds himself in internal political inferiority in the last two years of his term, the president is not the only one who feels that the Israeli government's current policy is bad for America. Vice President Joe Biden, Secretary of State John Kerry and US Ambassador to the UN Samantha Power feel the same way. Former national security advisors Zbigniew Brzezinski and Brent Scowcroft have made statements in this spirit.
As we all know, there is criticism against Israel's policy in the academia as well, in addition to poisonous hostility towards the "Israeli lobby" and "Jewish money" because of "their excessive power in American politics and in American foreign relations. The book written by well-known Professors Stephen Walt and John Mearsheimer against the Israeli lobby has become a canonical document in curriculums.
We must also not forget President George H. W. Bush's criticism during Yitzhak Shamir's term as prime minister, and Secretary of State James Bakers' blatant comment against the Jews. I have met quite a few people in Washington who believe in an Israeli-Jewish conspiracy.
Jerusalem, therefore, should not view the Republicans' victory in the Congress simply as an event which might reduce its friction with the US and weakened White House. Israeli risks being perceived by the Democrats, who are currently in a crisis, as an oppositional element which shares their political rivals' joy.
This situation may have actually created an opportunity for Jerusalem to recruit the US, with all its political and intellectual camps, to advance an Israeli-American-Arab initiative aimed at changing the face of the Middle East.
Leading such an initiative will bring us closer to the Obama administration, which is in need of achievements right now, reduce the friction in the American capital between the two hawkish camps on Israel-related matters, and lessen the influence of poisonous elements which are hostile to Israel.