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May 24, 2009

U.S.-Israeli Comedy Week

By: John Caruso

It's been a week of high comedy for watchers of the U.S.-Israeli relationship.  First, in perhaps the most epic instance of nose-thumbing since Bill Clinton started bombing Iraq just as the Security Council was convening an emergency session on the issue, Israel began constructing the first new settlement in the Jordan Valley in 26 years—the day before Netanyahu's meeting with Obama:

Israel has moved ahead with a plan to build a new settlement in the northern West Bank for the first time in 26 years, pursuing a project the United States has already condemned as an obstacle to peace efforts.

The move comes on the eve of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's first meeting with U.S. President Barack Obama, despite Western calls for Israel to halt its settlement activity.

Tenders have been issued for 20 housing units in the new Maskiot settlement and contractors have arrived on site to begin foundation work.

Then, in response to Obama's pro forma plea to stop settlement expansion, Netanyahu knocked down a few lean-tos on a hill, in what is quite possibly the most perfunctory example of shack-smacking I've ever seen from an Israeli prime minister in this oft-repeated bit of kabuki theater:

Israeli police said they razed a tiny Jewish settlement outpost in the West Bank on Thursday in what media called a gesture to US President Barack Obama after his talks with Israel's prime minister.

"We dismantled seven tin huts," said police spokesman Danny Peleg, specifying that the outpost had been built without government authorisation.

"Seven tin huts"?  Stop, my sides, you're killing me.  You have to appreciate the attention to detail Peleg showed by specifying "tin" explicitly here—really draws a mental picture, doesn't it?  And I suppose they'd already blown down the houses of straw and sticks (oops, sorry, "huts") earlier, so he didn't even bother mentioning those.

And in case these examples of Israel's remarkable commitment to peace weren't a clear enough illustration of who typically calls the shots in this relationship, take a look at this Reuters article from yesterday:

The U.S. administration of President Barack Obama will not force Israel to state publicly whether it has nuclear weapons, an Israeli official said on Thursday. [...]  A senior Israeli diplomat, speaking after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu held his first summit with Obama in Washington this week, said: "This has never happened, nor will it happen with this administration."

Don't you just love that tone of command?  Like a drill sergeant assessing his latest batch of recruits.  Exactly like a drill sergeant assessing his latest batch of recruits.  I'm not sure what's funnier here: that, or Reuters dutifully shoveling Ehud Olmert's explicit admission that Israel is a nuclear power down the memory hole.

I also found this bit particularly interesting: "That U.S. message had been conveyed, the diplomat said, 'on the various levels of our bilateral talks'."  See, I knew there was an agreement between the United States and Israel that the U.S. would never admit the existence of Israel's 200-400 nukes, but until now I'd never seen evidence that it was anything but tacit.  But there you have it: Israeli officials make a point of extracting promises from U.S. administrations to lie about Israel's ability to destroy the world.

You can usually count on one good laugh a week from the U.S.-Israeli relationship, but three?  Outstanding!

— John Caruso

Posted at May 24, 2009 11:18 PM

Netenyahu's tone was dismissive from the first minute. He took the measure of our 'compromiser' and bet all in on squadouche. Obama, predictably, folded. Shuffle up and deal! We got dead money sittin' at the table...

Posted by: Woody at May 25, 2009 02:49 PM