Russia is gobbling up much of Ukraine. China is putting growing pressure on its neighbors in East Asia. ISIS is chopping the heads off Americans. Syria’s government continues to slaughter thousands of its citizens. Iran is working feverishly on a bomb and running circles around our negotiators. Boko Haram is wreaking havoc in Nigeria. Hamas is raining rockets and missiles down on its neighbors. And the Obama administration reportedly is mulling the imposition of sanctions on…Israel. Why? Because Jews are building homes in Jerusalem:
State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf dodged several questions on Thursday when confronted with reports that the administration had held secret internal meetings to discuss taking action against Israel for its ongoing building in East Jerusalem.
The classified meetings were reportedly held several weeks ago and included officials from both the State Department and White House, according to the Israeli daily Ha’aretz, which first reported on the meetings.
The possibility of sanctioning Israel for its ongoing construction sends a signal that the Obama administration is willing to go further in its denunciations of Israel than any previous White House.
At the same time, the White House is vigorously pushing Congress against passing new sanctions on Iran.
You can read the colloquy at Ms. Harf’s Thursday press briefing here. Her refusal to discuss ongoing deliberations within the administration is certainly reasonable as a general principle. Still, if the administration viewed imposition of sanctions on Israel as a ridiculous idea, one might think she would say so. The Haaretz story that broke the news is here:
Senior Israeli officials said that White House officials held a classified discussion a few weeks ago about the possibility of taking active measures against the settlements.
A few senior American officials approached by Haaretz did not deny this, but refused to disclose more details.
Perhaps the administration will be saved from doing the wrong thing by political calculation:
[I]t isn’t yet clear how the decision to hold early elections will affect the White House’s decisions regarding the settlements. One of the aspects of this that is being looked into by the U.S. government is whether American action against the settlements at this point would weaken Netanyahu in Israeli public opinion, or do just the opposite, by portraying him as one who doesn’t cave in to international pressure.
I assume the latter, so maybe Obama’s detestation of Netanyahu will cause him to stay his hand on sanctions, at least for the time being.