Links: the U.S.-Israel crisis intensifies
03/16/2010 - 14:24
James Besser

The U.S.- Israel diplomatic firestorm continues to rage, and a lot of questions remain unanswered: exactly what did Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu know about the plan to build 1600 new housing units in East Jerusalem, announced with such devastating impact when Vice President Joe Biden headed to Israel on a make-nice mission, and when did he know it? What is the Obama administration trying to do with its tough new demands on Israel and harsh rhetoric?  Where does all this lead?

Here are some interesting and very different takes on the  crisis.

A Washington Post editorial takes the Obama administration to task for an unwise decision to “deliberately plunge into another public brawl with the Jewish state.”  

Tough tactics don't always work, the Post opined, and the Obama administration may be on a path  to another year of Middle East blundering.

On the other side of the debate,  Ha'aretz's  Yoel Marcus savages Netanyahu.     “If Bibi genuinely did not know, as he foolishly claims, that 1,600 more homes were being planned for East Jerusalem, he does not deserve to be prime minister,” he writes. “If he did know, and permitted Interior Minister Eli Yishai to announce the plan exactly during the visit of Joe Biden, who is both U.S. vice president and a friend to Israel, then there are two possibilities, each worse than the other: either stupidity or fear of the extremists in his cabinet. Either way, he is playing with fire.”

In the same paper, Avi Issacharoff and Amos Harel say that while they don't much care for Netanyahu, it “seems the Obama administration has made a conscious decision to aggravate a diplomatic crisis with the Netanyahu government.”

In this case, they say, the U.S. response is likely to backfire because “the majority of Israelis wholly oppose halting construction in east Jerusalem. They may be angry over the timing of the announcement - but most want building to continue.”  The hot U.S. rhetoric just “plays into the hands of Netanyahu and encourages violence,”  they add.

But yesterday the New York Times' Tom Friedman argued that  Washington should have taken an even tougher stand when Biden got blindsided.

“Israel needs a wake-up call. Continuing to build settlements in the West Bank, and even housing in disputed East Jerusalem, is sheer madness,” he wrote.

The message from the administration to Bibi  should be this: “Friends don’t let friends drive drunk. And right now, you’re driving drunk.”

Nobody really knows what the Obama administration has in mind as the crisis continues to intensify, but Atlantic writer and blogger thinks he has a pretty good idea: a kind of regime change.

“The goal is force a rupture in the governing coalition that will make it necessary for Netanyahu to take into his government Livni's centrist Kadima Party (he has already tried to do this, but too much on his terms) and form a broad, 68-seat majority in Knesset that does not have to rely on gangsters, messianists and medievalists for votes,” Goldberg writes.

C'mon, Jeff, tell us what you really  think.

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