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Obama and Israel: Carom Shot?

Author: Elliott Abrams, Senior Fellow for Middle Eastern Studies
December 4, 2012
National Review


The Israeli press is reporting that "The United States was behind the summoning of Israeli ambassadors by several European nations, Israeli sources with close ties to US administration officials said Monday. 'The European move is essentially an American move,' one official said. 'The Brits asked the Americans how to act.'" The same story quotes an Israeli official saying "The Europeans got the green light to respond with extreme measures . . ."

No proof is offered and proof in these circumstances will be hard to produce. But the story has a great deal of logic behind it. The Obama administration has denounced the Israeli decision to build several thousand additional housing units in Jerusalem and the West Bank. In my experience, when we distance ourselves from Israel the Europeans distance themselves more; when we criticize Israel, they double down and criticize more, and more harshly. Is there any sport that most European foreign ministries enjoy more than denouncing what they view as Israeli aggression, expansion, discrimination, persecution? If they perceive the dimmest green light from Washington, they are off to the races.

The White House will be more restrained, at least in public. In private, the real emotions about Prime Minister Netanyahu and the government of Israel emerge, as they did last weekend in widely reported remarks by Rahm Emanuel to the U.S.-Israel policy conference called the Saban Forum. (Yes, the mayor of Chicago is no longer White House chief of staff, but literally no one believes his remarks were distant from the opinions of his former boss.) One can just imagine what is being said to egg on the Europeans.

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