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Hug it out?

It’s time for a reboot.

At a time of deepening crises in the Middle East, from the scourge of ISIS to the march of Syria’s Assad to the quietly unwavering commitment of Iran to acquire nuclear weapons, American and Israeli officials have been bogged down in a pile of, well, chicken droppings.

That’s the polite way of describing what an unnamed U.S. official called Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, according to a report in The Atlantic. The official used the slur in the sense of “cowardly,” suggesting Netanyahu lacked the will to confront his own problems boldly. Analysts described the slight as symptomatic of deteriorating relations between the White House and Jerusalem. 

In the meantime, the Netanyahu government has angered U.S. officials by going ahead with plans to build in eastern Jerusalem, where Palestinians one day hope to establish their own capital and where international diplomacy has yet to recognize Israeli sovereignty. At best, say those officials, the building is unhelpful; at worst, it is illegal. 

The back and forth — prodded, to be frank, by some Jewish groups who fear progress on the peace process more than they fear Israel’s alienation from its one true ally — could not come at a worse time. A possible nuclear deal with Iran has Israelis worried that Tehran will be left on the verge of becoming a nuclear power. Jerusalem is seeing increased tension between Jews and Arabs and hearing talk of a Third Intifada. The Palestinians have revived their bid to achieve statehood recognition through the United Nations Security Council. 

Each of these challenges demands close cooperation between the United States and Israel — cooperation that must be built on trust. It’s time for both sides to step back from the abyss and recognize that what unites them far outweighs what divides them. This is a family quarrel that needs to end.

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