U.S.-Israel Relations

U.S.-Israel Relations

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

Multiple news organizations and sources are reporting that the Obama Administration intentionally held-up resupplying Israel needed materials during the Gaza War. According to the reports, it was “playing Israel’s requests for supplies “by the books” and not responding expeditiously to a friend’s needs during a critical period. 

If this was not the case, then the Administration needs to clarify–especially for many in the Jewish and the pro-Israel community–precisely what occurred and who was to blame for the erroneous reporting. On the other hand, if it is factually correct–as reported both in Israel and in Washington–then the Administration needs promptly to own up to this fact.  It must explain to all the American people and especially to the U.S. Congress which authorized a policy of rapid support and supplies to Israel, why it modified the previous policy precisely during such a critical time. Furthermore, those directly responsible for such a shift in U.S. policy towards Israel cannot hide behind a series of rhetorical niceties or alleged sloppy administrative behavior.

The Obama Administration and the President, especially, have been peeved for several years at the attitudes of the Netanyahu Government towards Obama and his team. Recently, the White House has taken severe umbrage at the treatment that Bibi gave to Secretary Kerry and Ambassador Shapiro. No one denies that there are many ruffled feathers both in Washington and Jerusalem concerning the dynamics in the interpersonal relationship between Bibi and Obama nor does anyone deny that the U.S. has every right to reconsider its policy toward Israel if it so desires. It seems rather strange that Administration would choose to do such a reassessment in the form of a reevaluated weapons transfer policy in the midst of a war.

Israel may well have made mistakes in its responses to the repeated Hamas rocket attacks against Israel, but the U.S. has more than sufficient records of how the Hamas forces treated its own people. Washington is well aware of the hatred Hamas has expressed towards Israel, but posturing towards an ally seeking to defend itself during a war is ugly and spiteful.

Netanyahu has made many errors in how he has courted this White House and how he has alienated Democrats while courting Republican supporters, especially in Congress. In the past, Prime Minister Menachem Begin may have frustrated President Reagan and his staff, but that was primarily over a discomfort with Begin’s very long-winded style and the interminable historical backdrops to his policy discussions. President Obama constantly feels that Bibi is disrespecting him and directly or indirectly threatening him politically. Both men need to wake and stop fiddling while the region is in such a tense state. Israel cannot afford it and Washington needs to create more regional stability not less. 

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