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So What’s Wrong With This Headline?
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So What’s Wrong With This Headline?

Gilbert N. Kahn is a professor of Political Science at Kean University.

In opening Haaretz this morning the following headline appeared:

Top ministers: Israel knows nothing of breakthrough in Iran-U.S. nuclear talks

As is well known, headline writers on newspapers do not write articles but sell papers (or invite hits) but immediately one was struck that this headline expressed the fundamental problem between Bibi and Obama. The U. S. announced that it has reached a private understanding with the Iranian regime to enter into direct, bi-lateral, secret discussions following the American elections concerning Iran’s nuclear program. Decisions to establish this new set of conversations were arranged without consulting with the Israeli Government. It was apparently to this announcement on the front page of Sunday’s New York Times that Israeli ministers were commenting and expressing surprise.

There is something clearly absurd in their reaction and its implicit assumption. Israeli leaders have developed a notion that any matter involving the Middle East that also involves the State of Israel—directly or indirectly—should be run through Jerusalem before it is promulgated or announced. If there were an imminent security issue involved there is no question that the Pentagon and the HaKirya  (the Israeli Defense Headquarters) would immediately link together with no need for any political concerns to be raised or implied. On the other hand, when the State Department and the White House conduct foreign policy, they do not consult automatically with any other Government nor would they expect any foreign state to run its foreign policy decisions through Washington—certainly before the fact.

There are two additional observations related to this story. First, the reporting suggests almost consternation that the U.S. would proceed with an initiative such as this without informing the Israelis. It was almost as inappropriate as Bibi appearing to demand that Obama express the U.S. position on Iran using Bibi’s metaphoric “red-line” terminology to prove that Obama had Israel’s back and that Washington could not use its own language to confirm the relationship.

Second, what the pro-Romney members of the Jewish community do not understand is that any occupant of the White House will conduct foreign policy exactly the same way. Any thought that such operations will be conducted differently in a Romney Administration fails to comprehend the nature and process of U.S. foreign policy decision-making.  While this mini-burst of pseudo-umbrage expressed by the Israeli minister(s) may well be used by Romney in the debate tomorrow night to score points with Jewish voters, it ought not to be seen except as transparent campaigning tactics.

As for the Israeli leadership, it seems that they still remain out of control when it comes to the Obama Administration. From the Prime Minister down, it is long past its need to understand the difficulties they cause to the U.S.-Israel relationship as it persists in implying a less than full and reliable relationship between the Obama Administration and Israel.

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