The Yaalon Quarrel and U.S.-Israel Relations
As usual, Bret Stephens has things backwards:
Israel needs to look after its own immediate interests without the incessant interventions of an overbearing partner. The administration needs to learn that it had better act like a friend if it wants to keep a friend. It isn’t as if it has many friends left.
The immediate cause for Stephens’ latest bout of whining is the decision to deny the Israeli defense minister meetings with Kerry and Biden following the minister’s obnoxious remarks about the Secretary of State. Considering that the minister in question mocked Kerry as “obsessive and messianic” with regard to the peace process, it is remarkable that he was permitted to have any meetings with senior officials while in the U.S. If Yaalon were a senior minister with any other government, he likely would have been treated far more dismissively. While it makes sense not to let one minister’s comments unduly damage a bilateral relationship, it is entirely appropriate not to allow ministers from client governments to make cracks about our officials with impunity. If the snub was intended to embarrass Yaalon back home, so much the better.
Stephens’ advice would be more usefully directed to Netanyahu and his allies. While the current administration may have alienated some governments over the years, Netanyahu’s government has done a fine job of alienating even more. It seems to excel in this. Israel has few “friends” to start with, and can hardly afford to antagonize the few that it has, but it has made a point of thwarting and antagonizing this administration for the last five years. The administration is belatedly making known that it will be insulted and ignored only so many times in public before there are (extremely minor) consequences. It is useful on occasions such as this to recall which state is the client and which is the patron, and the former shouldn’t be able to dictate the terms of the relationship. It is normally out of the question for ministers from a client state to upbraid officials of the patron government, and in this case it’s not surprising that the administration has found the most recent tantrums to be too annoying to ignore.