Early in the Egypt crisis, Alana wrote a post citing Walter Russell Mead, who suggested that the loss of reliable Arab allies might bring the United States closer to Israel. That makes intuitive sense, including from within a kind of lay realist approach, where it’s better to have allies in a resource-critical region than to not have allies in a resource-critical region. It’s the natural direction for a foreign policy oriented toward preserving American influence to take.
Apparently, certain elements of the Obama administration are embracing a different approach. Shmuel Rosner picks up on an article by Thomas Friedman, where Friedman channels White House “disgust” at Israel for — ostensibly — “telling the president he must not abandon Pharaoh” and “using the opportunity to score propaganda points.” If the statements hold up, the inevitable result will be a chill in the U.S.-Israeli relationship, since it will appear to the Israelis that the White House is trying to damage American public opinion of the Jewish state:
I didn’t hear anyone that’s “disgusted” with Israeli interlocutors. Maybe I’ve been talking to the wrong people — maybe those “disgusted” with Israel feel more comfortable talking to Friedman (he also has more readers, and is more handsome). I can tell you this: There are quite a few Israelis thinking that Friedman is the spokesperson for the Obama administration. If his words will not meet denials from the WH, this impression will become even stronger. I can also tell you that there were quite a few Israeli officials “disgusted” with Friedman’s article’s hysterical tone.
The turmoil in Egypt has already endangered key military and intelligence assets, and we still don’t know when and if a democratically elected government will take power, or how it will relate to the West. Meanwhile the Obama administration has alienated both sides of the Egyptian uprising, Biden’s unblinking declarations about the U.S. “speaking with one voice” notwithstanding. Things were going to be complicated anyway, since Obama had cut pro-democracy aid in 2009 because it felt good to be the anti-Bush, before he went all-in on democracy in 2011. But the White House’s fumbling indecision and poor intelligence throughout the crisis burned whatever bridges we still might have had. The only faction we’ve more or less consistently sucked up to is the Muslim Brotherhood, from State’s 2010 engagement with Tariq Ramadan through the White House’s crisis-time flirtation with the group, ending, of course, with Clapper’s idiotic comment about the Muslim Brotherhood being secular. But the Brotherhood doesn’t seem interested in helping us maintain our Middle East presence — that’s just not the vibe it gives off — so it’s doubtful that our gambits there will really help.
UAE? Unhappy. Jordan? Pretty annoyed. Saudi Arabia? So angry that the last phone call between Obama and Abdullah triggered rumors that the king had suffered a fatal heart attack out of sheer fury, with the Kingdom having already expressed a similar sentiment through Foreign Minister Al-Faisal.
Our list of allies, in other words, is growing dangerously short.
So naturally, someone in the White House thinks the time is ripe to drive a wedge between the U.S. and Israel. Smart power!