Bibi Bags Bombs Behind Barack’s Back

by Dish Staff

Say that ten times fast. In a sign of just how badly American-Israeli relations have deteriorated during the Gaza war, Adam Entous’ big scoop in the WSJ yesterday reveals that Israel acquired US munitions directly from the Pentagon, bypassing the White House, and may have subsequently used these munitions to bomb an UNRWA school. Katie Zavadski summarizes:

As The Wall Street Journal reports, U.S. officials had been growing increasingly concerned about the civilian toll of Operation Protective Edge in Gaza, particularly in light of the UNRWA school shelling. Imagine their surprise, then, when they found out that Israel had requested mortar shells and other weapons through military-to-military channels ahead of the incident. A diplomat said officials were “blindsided,” though a defense official said that the request had been approved through all the required channels.

Officials subsequently found out that the Pentagon’s Defense Security Cooperation Agency was on the verge of releasing an initial batch of Hellfire missiles to Israel through those same channels. They immediately suspended that shipment. A senior White House official said that more than “check-the-box approval” is required for such releases, this being a time of war and such. Going forward, the Journal reports, such weapons requests will have to get individual approval from the White House and State Department.

But Ed Morrissey doesn’t buy the White House’s claim that it was hoodwinked:

If the standard review process was followed, then why was the White House “caught off guard”?

Isn’t it incumbent on the Obama administration to know how the sale and transfer process works? Israel had conducted a ground war — much to the chagrin of Obama and his “policymakers” — for a few weeks. Why wouldn’t anyone have expected Israel to replenish its supplies? Surely there are a few people who may have at least watched Patton if not studied Clausewitz in this administration. Resupply is a basic function for any army at war.

He advances a theory for why the story is coming out now:

Israel (and probably Egypt too) has marginalized John Kerry after the Secretary of State attempted to legitimize Hamas by attempting to negotiate through Qatar and Turkey. That leaves Barack Obama out in the cold, but still making demands on Israel to be flexible in the final truce settlement. Netanyahu wants Obama to make concessions in exchange for that flexibility. That has angered Obama, who finds himself all but impotent in the matter — which is why we have this big leak about the deteriorating relations between Washington and Jerusalem.

In Beauchamp’s takeaway, this incident illustrates just how one-sided our government’s relationship with Israel has become:

Entous’ reporting illustrates why the US is so bad at pressuring Israel. The United States and Israel are bound so tightly together in so many ways that Israel has all sorts of avenues to get around the limited pressure that administrations might want to bring to bear. US officials admitted to Entous that their influence over Israel has been “weakened” during the Gaza war. That’s because Netanyahu “has used his sway in Washington, from the Pentagon and Congress to lobby groups, to defuse US diplomatic pressure on his government over the past month.”

The American public and Congress both overwhelmingly support Israel and sympathize with it over its enemies during conflicts. That helps maintain a strong US-Israel relationship, even when the leaders of both countries can’t stand each other. It also seriously ties America’s hands when the two countries disagree.

Drum sees dim prospects for the US standing up to Netanyahu anytime soon:

It’s not as if Obama has actually done much of substance to put pressure on Israel despite endless provocations from Netanyahu, but it’s a very good bet that the next president will do even less. On the Democratic side, Hillary Clinton is the heavy favorite, and she’s made it crystal clear that her support for Netanyahu is complete and total. On the Republican side, it doesn’t really matter who the nominee is. As long as it’s not Rand Paul, Netanyahu can expect unquestioning fealty.

And in the meantime, he can count on the US Congress not really caring that he publicly treats the US president like an errant child. I keep wondering if one day he’ll go too far even for Congress, but I’ve mostly given up. As near as I can tell, there’s almost literally nothing he could do that would cause so much as a grumble.