Actually, Joe set himself up. From the moment he set foot on Israeli soil, our vice president was in full pander mode.
First, he headed to Yad Vashem memorial, where he put on a yarmulke and declared Israel "a central bolt in our existence."
"For world Jewry," Joe went on, presumably including 5 million Americans, "Israel is the heart. ... Israel is the light. ... Israel is the hope."
Meeting Shimon Peres the next day, Joe confessed that when he first visited at age 29, "Israel captured my heart."
In Peres' guestbook, he wrote, "The bond between our two nations has been and remains unshakeable."
He then told Peres and the world, "There is absolutely no space between the United States and Israel when it comes to Israel's security."
As Peres spoke, Biden took notes. When Peres called him "a friend," Joe gushed, "It's good to be home."
Even at AIPAC, they must have been gagging.
Walking around the corner to Prime Minister Netanyahu's office, Joe called him by his nickname, "Bibi," declared him a "real" friend and said the U.S. relationship with Israel "has been and will continue to be the centerpiece of our policy."
Then the sandbag hit.
Interior Minister Eli Yishai announced construction of 1,600 new apartment units in Arab East Jerusalem. Stunned and humiliated, Biden issued a statement saying he "condemned" the decision.
He then retaliated by coming late to dinner at Bibi's house.
Netanyahu has apologized for the timing, but they are going ahead with the apartments. What are the Americans going to do about it? At this point, nothing but bluster.
Indeed, a day later, at Tel Aviv University, Joe was back at it: "(T)he U.S. has no better friend ... than Israel."
On his departure for Jordan, Ha'aretz reported that Israel plans to build 50,000 new homes in East Jerusalem over the next few years.
Biden may feel he was played for a fool, and Americans may feel jilted, but we got what grovelers deserve. And if we wish to understand why the Arabs who once respected us now seem contemptuous of us, consider that battered-spouse response to a public slap across the face.
Consider also the most remarkable statement of Biden's first 24 hours.
"Progress occurs in the Middle East when everyone knows there is simply no space between the United States and Israel."
Biden is saying we are a more effective force for Mideast peace in a region where Arabs outnumber Israelis 50 to one if everyone knows we sing from the same song sheet as Israel and have no policy independent of Israel's.
How can America be seen as an honest broker between Arabs and Israelis if there is "no space" between America and Israel?
Even with the closest ally in our history, Britain in World War II, there was space between Winston Churchill and FDR on where to invade -- North Africa, Italy, France, the Balkans? -- whether to beat Stalin to Berlin, Prague and Vienna, who should be supreme allied commander, even whether the British Empire should survive.
Israel keeps its own interests foremost in mind, and when these dictate actions inimical to U.S. interests, Israel acts unilaterally. David Ben-Gurion did not seek Dwight Eisenhower's permission to attack Egypt in collusion with the French and British in 1956, enraging Ike.
Israel did not consult JFK on whether it could steal enriched uranium from the NUMEC plant in Pennsylvania for its atom bomb program.
Israel did not consult us on whether it could attack the USS Liberty in the Six-Day War, or suborn Jonathan Pollard to loot our security secrets, or transfer our weapons technology to China. They went ahead and did it, knowing the Americans would swallow hard and take it.
Ehud Olmert did not consult President-elect Obama on whether to launch a war on Gaza and kill 1,400 Palestinians. Nor did Netanyahu consult us before Mossad took down the Hamas minister in Dubai.
What Netanyahu and Yishai are telling Obama with their decision to keep building on occupied land is, "When it comes to East Jerusalem and the West Bank, we decide, not you."
And if Netanyahu has jolted Joe and others out of their romantic reveries about Israel, good. At least now we no longer see as through a glass darkly.
Israeli and U.S. interests often run parallel, but they are not the same. Israel is concerned with a neighborhood. We are concerned with a world of 300 million Arabs and a billion Muslims. Our policies cannot be the same.
If they are, we will end up with all of Israel's enemies, who are legion, and only Israel's friends, who are few.
And if our policy and Israel's are one and the same, the Arab perception will be what it is today -- that America cannot stand up to Israel, even when her national interests command it.
Joe's performance before he got the wet mitten across the face only underscored the point: The mighty superpower is a poodle of Israel.
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