By Alex Traiman/JNS.org –
Attitudes on Iran sanctions and the leaking of information on an Israeli airstrike in Syria have exacerbated the Obama Administration’s differences with the Israeli government, while pro-Israel groups in the U.S. find themselves caught in the crosshairs.
Tensions between the Israeli and American governments rose significantly last week when the U.S. confirmed publicly that the Israel Air Force was responsible for a strike on a Syrian military base near the port city of Latakia. The strike reportedly took out arms bound for the Lebanese terror group Hezbollah.
“The United States pulled the rug out from Israel in leaking the story,” Lenny Ben-David, former deputy chief of mission at the Israeli Embassy in Washington under Prime Ministers Benjamin Netanyahu and Ehud Barak, told JNS.org.
“When these actions become public, it changes the game,” Ben-David said.
Israel often carries out clandestine military operations in the region to prevent the illegal movement of weapons that can directly impact Israel’s security. While the U.S. is often told of such operations either before or soon after they occur, confirmation of targeted strikes are often intentionally left vague to maintain Israeli deterrence capability, and to prevent retaliation as well as international condemnation.
The uncharacteristic confirmation is considered by many in the upper echelons of the Israeli administration to be an intentional leak that may have been intended at further isolating Israel in the international community, and potentially even provoking Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to respond militarily.
Reports on Israeli television networks Channel 2 and Channel 10 were particularly fierce in their criticism of the Obama Administration’s leak. Top Israeli military analysts referred to the leaks as “scandalous,” “illogical,” “unfathomable,” and “foolish.”
Several prominent U.S. Jewish groups are now also finding themselves caught in a dilemma between supporting American and Israeli policies, amid growing diplomatic tensions between the two countries. While Netanyahu has renewed the call for tougher sanctions on Iran, and has left open the real possibility of a military strike to keep Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons, the Obama Administration prefers not to implement new sanctions during Western negotiations with Iran.
Following recent reports that Iran may be as little as two weeks away from enriching uranium to weapons grade, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) broke from the U.S. administration’s stance by making an announcement over the weekend that it would not back down from pressing Congress to enact tougher economic sanctions against Iran.
“AIPAC continues to support congressional action to adopt legislation to further strengthen sanctions, and there will absolutely …read more