The Obama administration said Wednesday that it had warned Israel’s government repeatedly to use “caution and restraint” with half a dozen aid boats bound for the Gaza Strip before Israeli commandos raided the flotilla this week in an operation that killed nine people.
“We communicated with Israel through multiple channels many times regarding the flotilla,” P.J. Crowley, a State Department spokesman, said in a statement issued in response to a question from The Washington Post. “We emphasized caution and restraint given the anticipated presence of civilians, including American citizens.”
“Don’t use anything more lethal than paintball guns,” the Israelis were warned. “Think how bad it would look if you accidentally shot some Nobel laureates or members of the European Parliament among the humanitarian peace activists on board.”
OK, I made the last part up. But doesn’t it seem that the US is micro-managing Israeli policy more than ever lately? And not for the better, if you believe, for example, that pressure from the incoming Obama Administration aborted Operation Cast Lead before the final push that would have overthrown Hamas. Or if you think that forbidding Jewish building in Jerusalem is bad for Israel’s sovereignty in its capital. Or if you worry about a radar installation on Israeli soil that is supposed to protect Israel, but which Israelis are forbidden to enter.
Obama Administration officials and advisors are starting to say that close relations with Israel are a liability to US policy.
Well, guess what? It appears that the reverse is true.
Remember when the Bush I Administration told Israel to hold still while Saddam Hussein dropped his Scuds on Tel Aviv? Today we have the ‘red light’ against an attack on the Iranian nuclear facilities (possibly such an attack would be impractical, but a red light nevertheless).
Here is my idea for how the US could promote peace in the Mideast: simply get out of the way and let Israel defend itself. Israel is not expansionist. There’s no downside except that the Arabs and Iran will dislike the US. But they do that already.