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The Israel Crisis

Author: Walter Russell Mead, Henry A. Kissinger Senior Fellow for U.S. Foreign Policy
March 15, 2010
American Interest


The war of words between the Obama administration and the Israeli government continues to heat up.  "This was an affront, it was an insult, but most importantly, it undermined this very fragile effort to bring peace to that region," White House senior adviser David Axelrod told the world on NBC yesterday. Axelrod of course was referring to the decision by the Jerusalem District Planning and Building Committee to move ahead with permission for the construction of 1600 units of housing in East Jerusalem.  Continued Axelrod: "For this announcement to come at that time was very, very destructive."

Axelrod's comments followed Secretary of State Hilary Clinton's angry 43 minute telephone call to Prime Minister Netanyahu on Saturday, and her call was a follow up to Vice President Biden's sharp rebuke on his visit.

This is the most sustained reaction of the Obama administration to any action by any foreign government during its first year in office.  In an administration which prides itself on a disciplined, unflappable approach to international affairs, the decision to emphasize the depth of its anger was clearly a deliberate step.  The emotions are hot, but the decision to make these feelings public and in such a pointed fashion was deliberate and cool.

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