Commentary Magazine


Why Didn’t Obama Call Off the Ambush?

There is an obvious reason why the Israeli prime minister canceled his attendance at President Obama’s nuclear security summit: he sought to avoid a combined Egyptian and Turkish attack on Israel’s nuclear program.

But there is an important follow-up question that is of far greater consequence: why do Egypt and Turkey, both American allies, feel at liberty to show up in Washington D.C. at a conference organized by the U.S. president and dump on one of America’s closest allies?

This latest incident is not really about Israel’s relations with Egypt and Turkey; both countries can be counted on to take cheap shots at Israel whenever they can, especially the increasingly Islamist Turkey. The critical issue is why they believed they had a green light to engage in such theatrics. Upon hearing of the ambush they were planning, Obama or Clinton could have sent a very clear message to the Turkish prime minister and the Egyptian dictator: “You either come to Washington and behave yourselves, or stay home. This is a respectable conference, not a platform for anti-Israel grandstanding.”

But clearly, Obama made no such call, and clearly he did not instruct the secretary of state to deliver a 43-minute tongue-lashing to the leaders of either country, as she has recently shown herself capable of doing. There are two possible explanations, and I’m not sure which is more disturbing. Obama either welcomed the prospect of another humiliation of Netanyahu, or he was afraid to stand up to two Muslim leaders. Perhaps both are true.

In his pettiness, Obama has once again lost perspective on what really matters. What could have been a useful opportunity to present a unified front against Iran’s nuclear ambitions has now descended into a spectacle of pointless drama not terribly dissimilar from a meeting of the Arab League. In his decision to indulge Middle East leaders in their obsessive desire to castigate Israel, Obama has once again shown his utter lack of interest in confronting the real threat to America’s national security.

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