It reflects six years of suspicion and mistrust and grievance, wounds from past brawls easily reopened by what might otherwise be small irritations. It reflects resentment on the part of Mr. Obama, who watched Mr. Netanyahu seemingly root for his Republican opponent in the 2012 election and now sees him circumventing the Oval Office to work with a Republican Congress instead. And it reflects a conviction on the part of Mr. Netanyahu that Mr. Obama may sell out Israel with a bad deal and may be trying to influence the coming Israeli elections.
Rather than defuse the latest explosion, each side has chosen to escalate. The Obama administration made it clear this week that it no longer has any use for Mr. Netanyahu’s ambassador in Washington. Israeli officials defied American opposition on Friday to announce 450 new settlement units in the West Bank and privately whispered to their media that Mr. Obama had given Iran 80 percent of what it wants.
“Of course this is a crisis,” said Eytan Gilboa, an expert on Israeli-American relations at Bar-Ilan University. “This is even a more serious one, first of all because of what it is and secondly because it comes on top of many previous crises. This is a different kind of story. This is a different kind of crisis.”
If Mr. Netanyahu, known as Bibi, survives the March 17 election, the result may be a virtual freeze in the relationship at the very top until after the 2016 American presidential vote. The situation will be all the more complicated if Israel ends up at war again with Hezbollah or if Iran balks at a deal to curb its nuclear program.