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Obama’s Israel Rift Grows Wider

One of the things the Obama administration has never had any success managing is the relationship with Israel. As the election nears, things are running true to form, with Netanyahu and other senior Israeli officials harshly criticizing Obama’s Iran policy in the press. The Washington Post reports:

A day after Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said the United States is “not setting deadlines” for Iran and considers negotiations the best approach, a senior Israeli official charged that “these statements won’t serve to deter Iran, but could well put it at ease.”

“Without a clear red line Iran will not cease its race toward a nuclear weapon,” said the senior official, who was not authorized to identify himself by name. “These statements will not stop Iran’s centrifuges from spinning. Unfortunately, the opposite could well be true.”

From an Israeli point of view, it makes a lot of sense to use leverage during the election to try to get the White House to commit to some kind of ultimatum against Iran. But the White House doesn’t want its hands tied.

And Israel could easily overplay its hand. Americans don’t want Iran to get a nuclear bomb, but they also really don’t want a war with Iran. Netanyahu has been very successful when going to Congress over the heads of the White House national security team on questions like Israel’s 1967 borders. But he may not have as much success with voters in a national election over Iran policy.

The White House also has reasons to look for a compromise. An open breach with the government of Israel during a close election campaign does not help an incumbent.

The Democratic Party leadership made sure it got Jerusalem back in the party platform. The White House will be looking for ways to keep Jerusalem on its side in the run-up to November.

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