Twice in the past week, Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta has declared that a military attack on Iran's nuclear capabilities would do more harm than good. This is a signal not just that the Obama administration (its promises never to permit an Iranian bomb notwithstanding) has no intention of using force to prevent Iran from going nuclear, but also that it seeks to prevent Israel from acting. Panetta also dispensed advice to Israel, snapping, "Get back to the damn table," as if Israel, not the Palestinian Authority, were the party boycotting negotiations. It is Israel's responsibility, the defense secretary implied, that the region is becoming ever more radicalized and that Israel's formerly cordial relations with Egypt and Turkey are fraying. Repairing to the favorite expression of those with nothing on the line, Panetta demanded that Israel "take risks."
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton also managed to put a finger in the eye of the region's lone democracy. Speaking to a Brookings Institution gathering, Clinton expressed dismay about Israel's treatment of women. She had read a Washington Post column suggesting that some Israeli busses in ultra Orthodox neighborhoods were sex segregated, forcing women to sit in the back. Clinton fumed that it reminded her of Rosa Parks and Iran. She failed to mention that the issue has already been litigated in Israel. The High Court has declared sex segregation illegal. But why acknowledge the workings of a vibrant democracy when you can posture about Rosa Parks?
In Belgium, Ambassador Howard Gutman suggested that Arab anti-Semitism springs from the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians. He later insisted his comments were "taken the wrong way."
Speaking to potential Jewish donors, President Obama preened, "I try not to pat myself too much on the back, but this administration has done more for the security of the state of Israel than any previous administration." Both clauses of that sentence are priceless.
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