On February 15, 2015, Israel news sources reported that the US was punishing Israel (Gil Ronen, “Report: US 'Punishing' Israel by Not Updating it on Iran Talks”, Arutz Sheva). The punishment was being exacted because Speaker of the US House of Representatives Republican John Boehner had invited Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to speak to a joint session of Congress. Boehner hadn’t informed the White House of this invitation. He had purposely done that because, he has since said, everyone in Washington knows of the animosity Obama had towards Netanyahu (“Boehner says he kept Netanyahu Congress invitation secret from White House”, i24 News, February 15, 2015).
Boehner felt that if he had told the White House of the invitation, the White House would have ‘nixed’ it (ibid), more out of hostility towards Netanyahu than for anything else.
The White House was outraged by the invitation. It declared it had been blind-sided by both Boehner and Netanyahu.
But instead of denouncing both Boehner and Netanyahu, it jumped only on Netanyahu. Administration officials claimed Netanyahu had spat in the US President’s face by accepting the invitation (“Netanyahu ‘spat in our face,’ White House officials said to say”, Times of Israel, January 23, 2015).
Boehner’s statement of February 15, 2015 appears to confirm that Netanyahu hadn’t spat at anyone. It suggests that Netanyahu wasn’t even aware that the invitation was made without the knowledge of Obama (i24news, ibid).
Boehner’s statement suggested that Netanyahu might not have been guilty of the perceived slight to Obama (ibid). But to a US President whose feelings towards Netanyahu tend towards, ‘outrage’, such a suggestion meant nothing. Netanyahu would be guilty until everyone believed he was guilty.
As soon as it could, the administration decided that Netanyahu would pay a price for his supposed ‘effrontery’ (“US Says Netanyahu Will Pay ‘Price’ for Upcoming Visit; Obama and Kerry Refuse to Meet Israeli PM”, United with Israel, January 23, 2015). The only question was, what would that ‘price’ be?
On February 15, 2015, we learned the answer: in the high-stakes game of confronting Iran, the US had contaminated important international security issues with raw political manipulation; it stopped talking to Israel about its progress in its talks with Iran. It was no longer sharing anything with Israel on Iran negotiations.
Undersecretary of State Wendy Sherman was reported to have made that statement (Arutz Sheva, above). Susan Rice, Obama’s National Security Advisor, was reported to have cut off contact with her Israeli counterpart (ibid).
That shouldn’t have been a surprise. The US had threatened to punish Israel. Now it had.
But it was a surprise. The White House should have acted differently. First, introducing personal hostility into international negotiations wasn’t professional. Then, second, it should have cancelled its ‘punishment’ after Boehner’s explanation seemed to clear Netanyahu of any culpability in the ‘outrage’ ascribed to Obama.
At the very least, it should have pushed the idea of ‘punishment’ to a back burner. The White House should have tried to uncover who did what, when.
It didn’t do that.
Instead, it allowed a personal hate to alter international security arrangements. Then it attacked the Israeli reports that had revealed their unprofessional behaviour.
As soon as the Israeli story of the ‘punishment’ hit the wires, senior U.S. officials in both the State Department and White House denied the reports (Adam Kredo, “U.S., Israeli Officials Deny U.S. Has Cut Israel Out of Iran Talks”, Washington Free Beacon, February 15, 2015). The US, these officials said, had not stopped informing Israel about Iran nuclear talks. These officials were adamant: these Israeli reports were false (ibid)..they were patently false (ibid).
The inference seemed to be, ‘who are you going to believe, those damn Israeli liars, or us?’
Now, three days later, we get news from the EU that those Israeli reports were actually true. That means, of course, that the administration had lied when it had denied them.
Israeli news sources reported that European officials confirm that they had been told by the US to be careful about discussing Iran talk details with Israel (Avi Lewis, “EU officials confirm Israel not fully briefed on Iran talks”, Times of Israel, February 18, 2015). These European officials report that the US had claimed to them that Israel would twist the details in order “to undermine a deal” (ibid).
Israeli sources also quoted another European official as saying that US Secretary of State John Kerry was now ‘fuming’ at Israel (ibid). He was fuming about unspecified Israeli leaks after an Israel news report had apparently leaked the story that the US was withholding information from Israel (ibid).
It seems from the news that Kerry is fuming because the US had been caught ‘punishing’ Israel. The US had been caught behaving like a bunch of inexperienced High School sophomores instead of adult professional public servants. Apparently, Kerry doesn’t think it proper that Israel should be ratting out the rats.
Really? This is how the United States protects the world from a nuclear Iran?
What do you call such people?
You tell me.