In part, that impression stems from the relationship between Obama and Netanyahu. The two leaders took office just months apart in early 2009, and from the beginning, have appeared to be at odds both on the personal level and on key policy issues.
The men have sparred over Israeli settlements in the West Bank and east Jerusalem, the borders of a future Palestinian state and the Iranian nuclear program. Last year, Obama rebuffed Netanyahu’s calls to set ‘‘red lines’’ that would trigger an attack on Iran. The perception here that Netanyahu favored Mitt Romney in the U.S. presidential election — an allegation denied by Netanyahu — has further strained ties.
The U.S. is Israel’s closest and most important ally, and the relationship is critical for Israel. Further cracks in the ties could make for a stormy second term for Netanyahu.
The one area where relations have remained strong is in security ties. The Israeli and American defense establishments cooperate closely in monitoring the Iranians, military training and weapons development. Israel’s new ‘‘Iron Dome’’ rocket-defense system, which performed well during the recent fighting in Gaza, was developed with American financial aid.
Speaking at an event for mostly North American Jews in Jerusalem on Monday, Netanyahu thanked the U.S. for its support.
While he did not mention Hagel directly in his speech, Netanyahu he did warn of dangers ahead — including Iran’s nuclear program — and said ‘‘it is time for many who don’t see these dangers to wake up to them.’’
Eytan Gilboa, a specialist on U.S.-Israel relations at Israel’s Bar-Ilan University, said he thinks if Hagel ‘‘will be a total disaster for Israel.’’
He said Obama’s choice for CIA director, John Brennan, is considered good for Israel and could be a ‘‘stabilizing factor’’ on U.S. policy toward Israel. But overall, he said Obama’s foreign policy team creates a ‘‘potential recipe for many problems with Israel.’’
‘‘Obama is sending a message to Israel that rough times are ahead and if it doesn’t accommodate U.S interests, there will be tense relations,’’ he said.
But Dov Weisglass, who served as a top adviser to former Prime Minister Ariel Sharon a decade ago and was involved in sensitive dealings with the Americans, said concerns about Hagel are overblown.
‘‘Ties between countries are not decided by this person or that. The ties between Israel and the U.S. are so important and complex that I don’t see any reason why they should change,’ Weisglass said, predicting that in his new role, Hagel would, generally speaking, revise his outlook on things.
What’s more, ‘‘ultimately, he is not the only decision-maker,’’ he said.
Associated Press writer Daniel Estrin contributed to this report.