THE Bush administration's new get-tough attitude toward Israel
is both watershed and precedent in United States policy, according
to Middle East analysts, because of profound changes in the global
strategic situation and in US public opinion on the Middle East.
In recent weeks, administration officials have said that the US
hopes for a "land for peace" deal between Arab states and Israel,
an approach Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir rejects.
Meanwhile, Secretary of State James Baker III has consulted more
closely with Palestinians from the occupied territories than past
secretaries of state. He will meet this week with Palestinian
leaders Faisal Husseini and Hanan Ashrawi in Washington.
Although the White House has backtracked on directly linking $10
billion in loan guarantees for Israel to a freeze in West Bank
settlements, it is likely to maintain the link, analysts predict.
"The strategic alliance part of the relationship is over," says
William Quandt, a Middle East specialist with the Brookings
Institution. "During the Reagan period, this was hyped as a good
reason for turning a blind eye" to Israeli policies. "That kind of
glue is rapidly disappearing," he says.
"The idea of an anticipatory veto of the Jewish lobby" on the
issues involving Israel "has been broken," says Mark Rosenblum,
vice president of Americans for Peace Now, of the waning influence
of pro-Israel interest groups.
US administrations going back to President Dwight Eisenhower
have sparred with Israel, but friction has grown since the 1970s
over settlements in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. US presidents
have called the settlements both illegal and an obstacle to peace.
But no president until now has dared to stop them by threatening to
Last month, after Secretary Baker's trip to Jerusalem in which
Prime Minister Shamir rebuffed a US request to delay the loan
guarantees, a senior administration official told the traveling
press corps that the loan guarantees would hinge on a freeze on new
Reports of the official's comments sent the Israeli government
into a tailspin and further galvanized America's Jewish lobby.
But the lobby suffered a setback last week when pro-Israel
senators concluded they could not buck the president by passing the
loan guarantees now.
"There's a whole new international dymanic," says James Zogby,
executive director of the Arab-American Institute. "The East-West
dynamic is over." With the decline of the Soviet Union, the US has
become the uncontested world power. …