Obama mulling sanctions against Israel
For the first time in history, an American president is considering slapping sanctions on the state of Israel. The reason? Israel is building new housing on its own land.
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 then any previous White House.
At the same time, the White House is vigorously pushing Congress against passing new sanctions on Iran.
When asked to address the reports Thursday afternoon, Harf declined to take a stance.
“I’m obviously not going to comment one way or another on reported internal deliberations,” she said. “We’ve made clear our position on settlement activity publicly and that hasn’t changed.”
When pressed to address whether the White House has reached a point at which it believes its harsh rhetoric against Israel is not enough, Harf again demurred, stating that she would not “address hypotheticals.”
A White House National Security Council (NSC) official also would not comment on the report when contacted Thursday by the Washington Free Beacon.
News of the supposed meeting leaked to the press though Israeli officials who were apparently apprised of the discussion.
Senior Israeli officials told Haaretz “that White House officials held a classified discussion a few weeks ago about the possibility of taking active measures against the settlements,” according to the report.
The discussion about levying sanctions on Israel reportedly began after Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s October meeting at the White House and the subsequent battle between Washington and Jerusalem over settlement construction.
The thought of the White House leveling sanctions on Israel as it works to lessen those already imposed on Iran prompted consternation on Capitol Hill and throughout the pro-Israel world.
One senior congressional aide who works on the issue of Israel expressed shock that a White House could even discuss such action.
“If these reports are true, this would mark a new era of unprecedented hostility from the White House against our strongest ally in the Middle East,” the source said. “It’s impossible not to notice the irony of the administration mulling sanctions on Israel while threatening to veto new sanctions against Iran.”
There have been presidents who have been hostile to Israel before. Lyndon Johnson hated the Israelis, but he would have never dreamed of imposing sanctions. President Nixon's comments about Jews on his White House tapes revealed him to be a bigot, but he was a big enough president to realize Israel's strategic value to the U.S.
Taken alone, the possible sanctions on Israel are bad enough. But if the president goes through with it – and then vetos an Iran sanctions bill that will likely hit his desk early next year – what does that say about the president's Middle East strategy? A full-bore pivot to Iran while simultaneously turning away from Israel would be a catastrophe for the Sunni Arab states that have been U.S. allies for 60 years. The only reason I can think of for turning to Iran and away from Israel is that the smart foriegn policy thinkers in the administration believe that making Iran a regional hegemon will help keep the peace.
Congress will have to something to say about sanctions against Israel – and they'll say it in a bipartisan voice. And Obama's standing in Israel – already plummeting – will slip even further.