The Obama administration is clearly unhappy with Prime Minister Netanyahu’s campaign antics over the last few weeks. The Prime Minister’s decision to speak directly to the U.S. Congress on April 2nd clearly violated diplomatic protocol. It was also an insult to the President. Netanyahu’s more recent racist and fear-mongering statements about Arabs and his public rejection of a two-state solution were incendiary and potentially destabilizing. The President had every right to speak out about this bad behavior.
A public reproach by the U.S. seems long over-due given the multiple ways in which the Netanyahu government has misbehaved in the service of domestic politics. In fact, public condemnation of bad policies would seem like a good thing, not a bad. At least this way the U.S. might make Bibi think twice before he pursues policies that are directly contrary to U.S. interests.
The reaction to Obama’s public censure of Netanyahu, however, has been less than positive. Rather than congratulating the President for finally standing up to bad behavior, critics have warned that it could serve to increase sympathy for Netanyahu. The implicit message is that there are no circumstances under which the U.S. should criticize Israel – all outcomes are bad.
So today’s puzzler is this: Why would anyone think that giving an ally unconditional support – no matter how they behave – is a good thing? What benefit does the U.S. gain from keeping its mouth shut no matter what?