Commentary Magazine


Re: In Case You Thought It Couldn’t Get Any Worse

The seeming about-face on the administration’s willingness to block further action on the Goldstone report has left many scratching their heads. Did the National Security Council’s Dan Shapiro really “misspeak,” or did someone change the administration’s policy? The original news report suggested that the Obama administration would take affirmative action to block consideration of the report at the International Criminal Court, of which the U.S. is not a member. The ICC is independent of the UN, but there is a provision in the ICC’s governing document that allows the Security Council by resolution to delay the ICC from considering a matter for 12 months. So it was conceivable (although no easy undertaking) that the U.S. would use that mechanism or other influence to stop the Goldstone report in its tracks.

But one person with knowledge of the Wednesday call says that wasn’t exactly how it went down: “I don’t think Dan was ‘misspeaking.’ I think he was telling us their real thinking — let it burn out in Geneva and not allow it to go further.” This person speculates that Shapiro hadn’t expected the “off-the-record” call to be leaked, causing the administration embarrassment and publicly elevating its “let’s bury” plan. This person expressed dismay that someone on the call leaked, thereby causing the administration to scurry away from its plan, such as it was, to let it all wither away in Geneva.

But wait. How naive could Shapiro and others in the administration possibly be to believe that, excuse me, a call of multiple Jewish leaders with thousands upon thousands of connections to the media and an acute interest both in the topic and in being seen as “in the know” could be kept quiet? Pretty naive. And if, in fact, Shapiro didn’t have the complete support of everyone in the administration, including Un Ambassador Susan Rice, what was he doing talking to these people anyway? It’s mind-boggling really.

Each day brings the same query—is the administration indifferent (or actually hostile) to Israel’s concerns, or is it simply inept beyond words? Today the pendulum is swinging toward the latter explanation. But, of course, both may be true.