Commentary Magazine


Climbing Down

What to do? Hmmm. The Obami are in a box. The Israelis are not knuckling under. There’s been a domestic blowback. So how to get out of the dead end in which they find themselves after the make-a-huge-fuss-out-of-nothing-to-bully-Israel gambit has run its course?

First, the administration — oh, this is rich — calls for the whole incident to be put in “perspective.” Excuse me? I think it was the Obami who took a bureaucratic announcement concerning an expansion of an apartment complex in an area of Jerusalem not considered an “Arab neighborhood” (one can only marvel at the widespread acceptance of the notion that Jews shouldn’t be living in certain areas of the their own capital), inflated it into a confrontation, and extended the fight through a nasty phone call from Hillary Clinton, to be followed by new demands on Israel and a Sunday bash-a-thon by the well-known foreign policy maven David Axelrod. But now we need “perspective.”

Second, both sides are beginning to deny press reports of the most egregious comments. Now Joe Biden, we are told, didn’t really say that troops would be endangered by the Israeli apartment-complex expansion. (Yes, it’s hard to recite the allegation with a straight face.) And Ambassador Michael Oren is putting out the word that he did not contend that we are at a low point in U.S.-Israeli relations. (We are, but he’s saying he didn’t say it.) Well, this is one way to climb down but the damage is frankly done and everyone — especially the Palestinians and the Iranians — can’t help noticing the sorry state of U.S.-Israeli relations.

The incident, however, will not be forgotten anytime soon. It’s more than a specific comment that one side or the other uttered. If that was all, as many a marital spat it, it could be easily put aside. No, the nasty bit of truth revealed in this incident is the degree to which the Obami’s perceptions differ from the Israelis’ and the extent to which the Obami are willing to injure the relationship with Israel for the sake of ingratiating themselves with their friends in the Muslim World. Really, that’s the larger perspective to be noted. And it’s not a pleasing one for those who support a robust and intimate relationship between the U.S. and Israel.

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