On the surface, that the Obama administration decided one fine day to pick a fight with the government of Israel looks like an unmitigated disaster for the Jewish state. What could be worse than its most important ally provoking the worst crisis (according to the Israeli ambassador to Washington) since 1975?
A closer look, however, suggests that this gratuitous little spat might turn out better for Jerusalem than for the White House.
(1) It concerns not a life-and-death issue, such as the menace of Iran’s nuclear buildup or Israel’s right to defend itself from Hamas predations, but the triviality of the timing of a decision to build new housing units in Israel’s capital city. Wiser heads will insist that White House amateurs end this tempest in a teapot and revert to normal relations.
(2) If Obama et al. hope to bring down Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s government, they can’t count Knesset seats. Peeling away Labor will lead to its replacement by rightist parties.
(3) An Israeli consensus exists to maintain sovereignty over eastern Jerusalem, so provoking a crisis on this issue strengthens Netanyahu.
(4) Conversely, U.S. histrionics make the Palestinian Authority’s Mahmoud Abbas more reluctant to enter into Washington’s counterproductive negotiations.
(5) A recent poll of American voters shows an astonishing 8-to-1 sympathy for Israel over the Palestinians, so picking a fight with Israel harms Obama politically – precisely what a president sinking in the polls and attempting to transform one-sixth of the economy does not need.