Barack Obama, speaking to The Atlantic’s Jeffrey Goldberg, offered a sensible reply to a sensible-but-sensitive question:
JG: Do you think that Israel is a drag on America’s reputation overseas?BO: No, no, no. But what I think is that this constant wound, that this constant sore, does infect all of our foreign policy. The lack of a resolution to this problem provides an excuse for anti-American militant jihadists to engage in inexcusable actions, and so we have a national-security interest in solving this, and I also believe that Israel has a security interest in solving this because I believe that the status quo is unsustainable.
GOP Reps. John Boehner and Eric Cantor decided to prove they studied hard in the school of misreading and misrepresenting:
It is truly disappointing that Senator Obama called Israel a ‘constant wound,’ ‘constant sore,’ and that it ‘infect[s] all of our foreign policy.’ These sorts of words and characterizations are the words of a politician with a deep misunderstanding of the Middle East and an innate distrust of Israel.
Eliding here is the difference between calling Israel, the country, a sore and calling the Israeli-Palestinian conflict a sore. But I guess Reps. Boehner and Cantor think the conflict is a good thing, that’s helpful to Israelis, and makes America’s relationships with other Arab political actors easier? Andrew Sullivan, Marc Ambinder, and Goldberg offer further commentary. I’ll just say that, at the end of the day, I think Israel and Israelis will be better off with an American president who thinks the conflict is a serious problem that he’ll put a relatively high priority on than with a president who intends to pay Israel the false compliment of pretending that the situation is somehow no big deal.
Photo of Herzliya Station by Flickr user David55King used under a Creative Commons license