Settlement Snafu

The embarrassment over Israel's announcement of 1,600 new housing units during U.S. Vice President Joe Biden's visit has been elevated to an outright controversy with the public rebuke issued by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. On Thursday, Biden affirmed that the U.S.-Israel relationship is "impervious to any shifts in either country," and that "[n]o matter what challenges we face, this bond will endure."

Just a day later, however, according to State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley, Clinton told Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu by phone that "the Israeli government needed to demonstrate not just through words, but through specific actions, that they are committed to this relationship [italics added] and to the peace process." The secretary proceeded to amplify her rebuke through a series of TV interviews.

The United States is justifiably upset over the incident. But its alliance with Israel is crucial for both sides. An Israel that is weakened in its relationship with the United States will not be strong enough to take risks for peace. Moreover, the United States looks bad when a statement by its own vice president on Thursday is being put into serious question by the State Department spokesman on Friday.

The above article was published in Foreign Policy on March 15th, 2010.

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