JERUSALEM – In The Great Divorce, C.S. Lewis tried to allegorise about a reality which he admitted he could not imagine, but tentatively hoped to suggest. The US-Israeli relationship, to most, seems like an unbreakable bond, and any potential divorce might be regarded as unimaginable. But when Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu meets US President Barack Obama on July 6, they will discuss a relationship that is on the rocks, despite an annual US$2billion in aid and – in keeping with the traditional parameters of the relationship – Obama’s repeated commitment to Israel’s security. Stirring things up in advance, Michael Oren,Israel’s Ambassador to the US, spent Sunday and Monday denying media reports that he told Israeli diplomats that a “tectonic rift” was emerging between the two countries.
RAMALLAH — It might be unwitting irony, but the coffee-shop overlooking central Ramallah tips its hat to an American consumer icon, in what might otherwise be deemed an outpost of anti-Americanism. Stars and Bucks cafe in downtown Ramallah is branded with almost the same colour scheme as the better-known global chain from which it plays its name, a hue pretty close to Islamic green. Hummus and labaneh are on the menu should the customer want a more “authentic” experience than just downing a Middle East macchiato. Inside, some women wore in Western garb, others wore Islamic garb. All kept to their own tables, silent behind outsized sunglasses or tapping away on laptops. Some men lounged on sofas, puffing on shishas and just as silent as their female counterparts as they watched a World Cup football mismatch between Portugal and North Korea.
JERUSALEM – Israel’s Government last week agreed to relax its 4-year long blockade on the Gaza Strip, but the fallout from the recent flotilla incident lingers. With Israeli-US relations somewhat-frayed of late, US President Barack Obama called the move “ a step in the right direction.” Israel has come under intense international criticism for the deaths of nine Turks onboard the Mavi Marmara, one of six boats that tried to breach the naval blockade on May 31 last. Former Ulster Unionist Party leader David Trimble is one of two foreign observers to a committee set up to look into the clash — but the body has been described as a diversion by critics such as Turkey, who want an international investigation.